I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. It was a bad joke. I did not intentionally say something stupid. But I did.
I was in an important meeting and a really stupid thing slipped out while I was trying to be funny. I hurt someone’s feelings. I did not even realize it until later when the nice lady said something to me. I was mortified. I apologized profusely but the damage was done.
Ever happen to you? Now what? How do I recover from foot-in-mouth syndrome?
Sometimes it is not possible to recover from saying something stupid. In a job interview for example, you are on your best behavior supposedly showing the interviewer the best version of yourself, saying something stupid could blow the interview. You know you shouldn’t bad mouth your employer or let a swear word slip out but it happened. You know by the reaction on the other person’s face that you just took yourself out of the running.
It is worth trying to recover right on the spot as soon as you realize you said something wrong. Apologize and reword your comment a bit but do not go overboard. That might make it worse.
Later, when you have some quiet time, take a few moments to understand why what you said was offensive, dwell on it for a few minutes.
No one is perfect but our goal in life should be continuous improvement. We can take steps to avoid saying that again.
Here are some tips for recovering after a bad job interview that can apply to this situation from Susan P. Joyce’s blog, “5 Steps to Recovery after a Bad Job Interview”:
- Immediately launch damage control in a thank you note or message. In my case, immediately after the meeting I apologized to the person I offended. I followed up with an email thanking her for bringing the item to my attention. I want to own my mistake. If that had been an interview, follow up with a note reinforcing your interest in working for that company. DON’T remind the hiring manager about your stupid statement. That will just make it worse.
- Understand how it happened and figure out how to avoid that mistake in the future. In my case, I made a bad joke that I can completely eliminate from my patter. I figured out another way to make the point I was trying to make without using that joke at all.
- Realize that you may have blown that opportunity. Accept your responsibility and move on to the next opportunity.
Job interviews are like dating. Not every interview leads to a job offer just like not every date leads to a marriage proposal.
You can be rejected for many reasons, some related to something you did that was not smart and sometimes for reasons completely out of your control.