Told a Joke That Flopped
It's hard enough to recover from a bad joke, but what if the joke offended someone? Take your crack about that creepy guy, which might have been funnier if you hadn’t unwittingly made it to his wife.
- Bite the bullet and apologize. "We all wish we had a van following us around with men in white hazmat suits to clean up after us," says Dickinson. "Unfortunately, we have to do it ourselves. Rather than running screaming into the night, you have to just smack your head and say, 'I'm a doofus, and I'm sorry.'" An asset many women have, says Lavington, is "being able to read people visually. So when you realize you've goofed, stop and make an apology as quickly as possible."
- Don't overdo it. "Making sure people know that you know they didn't like what happened helps them heal," says Fee, "but more apology is not better. It draws attention to your mistake and places an added burden on the offended party: Not only did you insult her but now she has to make you feel better about it." Once you've said you're sorry, "move on, change the subject," says Dickinson. "It's a huge mistake to dwell."
- If you have a hard time apologizing face-to-face, do it by e-mail. "It eases the pain and keeps you from bleeding all over everybody," says Lavington. If you don't think fast on your feet, it also gives you time to come up with something more gracious to say than whatever you might have blurted out.