The New York Times

When You've Said the Wrong Thing

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

ASSESS THE HARM. DON’T “CATASTROPHIZE.” TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

Oops! You asked a recently fired friend-of-a-friend how his job is going. The words left your lips before you could scoop them back in. Inquiring about the biggest stressor in his life (the one he was praying no one would bring up) was an innocent mistake. Sure, you apologized profusely, but you can tell he’s smarting. Ugh.

This is a common, if painful, part of being a social creature in society. But apologizing for saying the wrong thing requires a different kind of apology than, say, spilling coffee on a stranger’s purse or running late to work. When you make an inappropriate comment or insensitive joke, the wound is internal, which can make patching things up more fraught.

It’s unrealistic to, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

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