Ever done a ‘Boris’? Put your foot in it? Said the wrong thing? Here’s how to ‘SAM’ your way back to peace of mind.
“I may have small feet, but they’re a great fit in my mouth.“
How many times have we done it?
We all know that sinking feeling, as we realise we’ve said the wrong thing – really “put our foot in it”. And as for how we feel afterwards…
You know the kind of conversation.
Talking to a work colleague in a hotel at a conference, you comment that it would be a great place to bring a family for a holiday. “As I told you yesterday, my wife and kids left me last month.”
In a bar, chatting with friends, you complain – again – about having to get up at 6 to go to work. “Actually, five of my team are being made redundant this week and I have to tell them the news tomorrow.”
Bumping into a friend you haven’t seen for a while, you ask her when the baby is due. “What do you mean? I’m not pregnant!“
Whether we say the wrong thing on a major scale or it’s just a minor slip-up, it’s easy to do. Sometimes it’s because something has happened to the other person that we couldn’t possibly know about. Sometimes it’s because we’re not concentrating on what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s just ‘bad luck’.
Whatever the reason, we want to cringe and disappear, full of embarrassment and even guilt. It can lead to us avoiding the other person – who hasn’t even done anything wrong. This can leave them feeling potentially confused and hurt.
How You Could Handle It Differently
At the time:
S – A – M
Stop talking. Even if you’re mid-sentence.
Admit your mistake. “I put my foot in it. I didn’t mean to offend…” You’ll know the words that work for you.
Move on. You’ve apologised. It was an accident. It’s up to them how they choose to respond and you dwelling on it will only make things worse.
After the event:
- If it’s appropriate, go back and do S-A-M.
- If not, then do it in your head! Run a conversation with the other person where you say sorry and ask them to forgive you. Then move on. It doesn’t matter that the conversation didn’t really take place, it will still help.
- Learn from it, so you don’t repeat history. Then let it go. There’s no point in holding onto guilt and embarrassment. It doesn’t help anybody.
- Most importantly: don’t go around telling everyone about it… Yes, it makes a great story, but that just leaves you stuck where you are. And if the other person hears the story through the grapevine, you’ll be causing them that pain, all over again, not to mention damaging your relationship with them.
Bottom Line: If you want to feel happier in life, it’s important to learn from mistakes and then let go of them. Saying sorry goes a long way towards making things better, but forgiving yourself – letting yourself off the hook – is an essential step towards feeling happier, too.
Need to go a bit deeper?
If, after trying S-A-M you find you’re still telling yourself (or others! ;-)) stories about what happened and how awful it was – and what a terrible person that makes you – then you need drastic measures!
We’re talking Mindfulness!
If you find yourself stuck in the ‘beat yourself up’ mode of thinking, after you have put your foot in it, then it’s vital to learn more about techniques like mindfulness, which can help you to:
- train yourself to let go of thoughts that cause you pain
- take back control of your Monkey Mind
- come back to living in the present moment, rather than stressing about the past or worrying about the future
- let go of old stories, hurts, stresses and worries
- smile more!
For a micro-mindfulness fix for this problem, how about trying out this exercise – it only takes a moment:
Mindfulness – For when you have put your foot in it!
- As you spot your mind replaying the “I can’t believe I said that!” story (again!), pause for a moment and move your focus to your breathing.
- As you breathe in, say to yourself: “I accept what happened.”
- As you breathe out, say to yourself: “I release what happened.”
- Keep going – gently watching your breathing, until you feel a sense of relief.
- Smile. It’s ok.
How did that feel? Did you notice the shift, as you let go?
If you’d like to discover more about how mindfulness can change your life – in under 60 seconds – then you might enjoy the easy-to-learn, quick-to-use life-changing techniques in my best-selling book: 52 Mindful Moments. No pressure – it’s just that it could be what you’re looking for, right now.
I’d love to hear how you get on with this technique – and how it helps you, especially if you use it to heal and let go of an old situation when you put your foot in it. Please feel free to share, via the comments box, below!