6 Scripts to Recover from Accidentally Insulting A Stranger
It’s surprisingly easy to accidentally insult people when you meet them for the first time. Even the most seasoned networker has messed up at some point or another and said something that they immediately regretted.
Most of the time it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see that person again so it’s fairly easy to brush your faux pas under the carpet, but what if you’ve messed up with someone that leads to longer-term consequences?
The best course of action is not to fixate on what was said but to respond appropriately when you realize you may have the foot-in-mouth syndrome.
Try and cover your tracks as confidently as possible and try to stay upbeat and positive.
A good recovery can turn a disastrous comment into a positive one and worst-case scenario and there’s no coming back- there’s a lesson and a funny story in there!
If you really have said something disastrous that you need to recover from you might like our other article: We Asked Our Friends for 4 Text Messages They Sent to Their SO to Make up after Unwittingly Insulting or Embarrassing Them – and This Is What We Got
Now, back to the matter at hand…
Read on for 6 Scripts to Recover from Accidentally Insulting Someone You Just Met:
Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.
Script 1 | When You Have ‘Congratulated’ Someone on Their Impending Arrival Only to Realize That They Aren’t Pregnant After All… Yikes.
Oh, I’m so sorry. [Insert Name] told me that you had some news and I must have completely misunderstood. I just assumed that was what they were talking about the other day.
My apologies I got you mixed up with another [Insert their Name], I was thinking how lucky you are to have such a flat stomach at 4 months in. I ballooned up when I had my daughter/son.
Sorry I just assumed you were pregnant because your skin looks really glowy all the time at the moment- what’s your secret?
Sorry a friend of mine recently announced they were expecting and babies have been on the brain a lot at the moment.
Sorry that was rude of me- I’ll be honest with you I’ve had two hours sleep for the past few weeks!
Remember to brief your mutual friend so that they can cover for you if asked.
Script 2 | When You Have Called Someone by the Wrong Name or Title.
I am so sorry [Insert Right Name] (this part is vitally important). I once had a student/friend/relative called [Insert Wrong Name] and the name has just stuck in my head. My fault entirely. I blame ‘baby brain’, ‘menopause’, ‘too much hard work’” …or any other excuses you can think about.
In these circumstances, some shameless groveling is always good, but you can also take this as an opportunity to be self-deprecating (people love feeling superior). You can blame other factors in your life for your mistake. As a bonus, your excuse may offer you a ‘get out’ clause for other situations in the future.
Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.
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In this course, Vanessa Van Edwards—lead investigator at Science of People, a human behavior research lab—shares research-backed strategies that can help you make the first few seconds of any interaction count. Vanessa dives into the body language that is essential to an engaging first impression, the vocal cues that help you sound confident both in person and on the phone, and the best opening lines for sparking a great conversation. Plus, get tips for changing dull small talk into a lively and memorable conversation.
Script 3 | When You Criticize Someone’s Creativity or Work Inadvertently Without Realizing It Was Them Who Actually Created It
Gosh, it was you who created that? That must have been a huge challenge and you’ve done really well. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be completely negative. I think there are some issues with [Insert Relevant Info]. Mind you, on the whole I think it’s a fantastic piece of work and you have really done an amazing job, especially with [Insert Reference] – (find something good!). You really should be congratulated; it must have been such a tough gig.
It’s interesting that you chose to [Insert Key Feature], I’m intrigued, why was that?
It is a good idea to try and look for some positives (even when there aren’t any). These will help to soften the blow. It is important never to try and back-track in these circumstances and to let some of your criticism stand.
The majority of creative types relish constructive opinions but can see through anyone who is trying to blag their way out of the situation by being overly sycophantic.
Just be clever and try to turn the negatives into positives wherever possible. You may be surprised by how much they appreciate your honesty.
Script 4 | When You Have Mis-Heard Something That Turned Out the Be a Vital Bit of Information.
I’m really sorry but I’m feeling a little bit stupid at the minute. I completely mis-heard what you said about [Insert Topic] – I’m afraid I’m a little bit deaf. It gets me into all sorts of situations where I get things totally backwards.
The admission of stupidity and personal failings are always useful in this kind of context. It can go a long way to making up for mistakes made at the point of introduction.
Script 5 | When You Ask a Question in All Innocence, Not Realizing That Everyone Else in the Rooms Knows That the Topic Is Taboo.
How much of an idiot do I feel right now, I really shouldn’t have asked that. It was completely inappropriate, and I didn’t really appreciate how sensitive the matter is. My fault entirely and I am really sorry if I have caused any offense.
Honesty is the best policy in this situation. Sometimes, you just need to apologize and move on and hope that people can put your idiocy behind them.
In this course, learn strategies that can help you hone and master your interpersonal communication skills. Join personal branding and career expert Dorie Clark as she shares techniques for getting your message across effectively in the workplace, and explains how to tackle potential communication challenges with your colleagues and supervisor. She also discusses how to grapple with tricky situations, taking you through how to handle interruptions, respond to critical feedback, and communicate across cultures.
Script 6 | When You Have Mistakenly Misidentified Someone or Drawn Inappropriate Conclusions From How They Look or Dress.
I must be as blind. You look so much younger than/so different to what I expected you to. I really didn’t recognize you properly. I am so sorry.
Not only are you acknowledging your error, but you are also flattering the individual concerned in the hope that he/she forgives you. Even if the person doesn’t entirely believe you, they will appreciate the sentiment and your attempt to make them feel better.
Now take a deep breath- every single one of us is messing up in some way, shape, or form. It is important not to dwell on your mistakes and put them down to experience. Nobody is perfect. In terms of your long-term career, it is important that you try and rectify the situation as soon and cover your tracks as best you can. Alternatively, you can just rely on an appropriate apology.
At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.
Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!
Never the Right Word
Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation. Learn more about me here.
In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.
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