Let’s talk about one of those annoying aspects of both our personal and professional lives: saying something that you wish you hadn’t. Have you ever misspoken and then replayed it over and over in your mind and convinced yourself that you’ll never be able to live down the shame of it? Do you stare at the ceiling all night thinking about the clever things that you should have said and then act out a play in your mind of how it could have gone? Have you heard people whispering and imagined that they were snickering about you? Well, I have. Sounds self-absorbed, and it is. But it’s also true. I think most of us have done this to ourselves at some point in our lives.
The good news is, I have great advice for these situations! Like a lot of my advice, I find it easy to give and hard to take myself. But here’s what I tell my kids: Those people aren’t replaying what YOU did; they’re replaying what THEY did. They’re making up their own imaginary conversations about they should have said. Everyone is the star of his or her own life and will be thinking about themselves much more than they are thinking about you. Ask yourself, do I remember every foolish or embarrassing thing that my friends and colleagues have done? I know that I don’t. I’m too busy thinking about myself!
There is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. —David Foster Wallace
My advice: When you have misspoken, no one is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. And even if they are, who cares? You don’t need anyone to tell you who you are.
PS: If you reflect on what you said and decide that an apology is in order, remember there are three required steps to a valid apology. Remind yourself what they are here.