1. People & Relationships

Social Etiquette Mistakes

How to Recover When You Make a Gaffe

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Text Etiquette

Taking a phone call when you're with a friend is considered bad etiquette.

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Making and keeping friends involves more than just caring about someone or spending time together. Sometimes a few social etiquette mistakes can start a new friendship off on the wrong foot, or at the very least cause a sticking point that can rub your friend the wrong way. Being socially graceful doesn't involve pedigree or economic standing. It's about making sure the other person you're with feels comfortable. A little self-reflection goes a long way when it comes to social etiquette.

Here are some common social etiquette mistakes, and how you can recover if you goof up.

Being Late

Running late is a common gaffe today. So common, in fact, that some people actually use it to describe themselves to someone new. ("Sorry I'm late, but you'll find that I'm always a few minutes behind.") The reason that being late is so rude is that it makes an unspoken statement that your time is more important than the person you are meeting, including that of your friends.

How to recover: If you're late once, apologize, and do a better job next time to be on time. However, if being late is a consistent problem for you, it's time to take a look at the reasons behind it. Some reasons for chronic tardiness include:

  • Trying to do too many things at once. (Ironically, trying to multitask can make you late because you're not focusing on how much time it takes you to complete a certain task.)
  • Being too busy.
  • Thinking that "a little tardiness" is okay.
  • When you hate waiting for other people.
  • Trying to do "one more thing" before you leave the house.
  • Disregard for time in general.

Take a look at the reasons behind your tardiness problem so you can understand why you push the limits when it comes to time. For example, if you think that your problem is that you need to do a few more things before you leave, skip these and just go to your destination instead. Put your friend's time above your need to accomplish "one more thing."

Putting Your Foot in Your Mouth

We've all probably had a moment or two when we blurt something stupid out, and it ends up offending someone. If you put your foot in your mouth, the way you can recover depends on the time and place that the gaffe occurred.

How to recover: If you said something once that offended your friend, apologize immediately and be more careful with your words. Sometimes we get comfortable with friends and forget that social grace is still necessary. Slow down as you speak so you think about what you're going to say more closely.

If you ending up saying something behind your friend's back and they found out, that edges it toward the gossip side of things more than a simple verbal slip. Apologize to your friend and examine your motives. Why did you feel the need to gossip? Were you trying to get closer to another friend? Are you secretly angry or jealous with your friend? When you determine the reason, you can make amends and change your relationship for the better going forward.

However, admitting you gossiped may cause a rift between the two of you. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as you probably needed to air some negative feelings. Remember to argue in a healthy way by working toward the compromise and resolution, rather than "being right."

Failure to Introduce Someone

When you hang out with people from a couple different friend groups, you may slip up when they are all together and forget that they don't know each other. The good thing is, this is a mistake that's easy to fix.

How to recover: Apologize and immediately introduce your friends to each other. Then, add a personal detail to help smooth over the error. For example, "John, this is Carrie. She has been my friend since we were kids, and loves anything to do with Star Wars. Carrie, John here has been looking for a place to have his wedding reception. Any suggestions?"

Not Excusing Yourself to Take a Phone Call

Isn't it rude when you're talking with someone and they instantly grab for their phone the minute it rings? If you can picture what it's like to have this happen to you, it might be easier to remember to shut your phone off or on mute the next time.

How to recover: If you have already answered your phone, apologize after the call ends and turn your phone off from that point on. The next time you are out, set your phone to mute (but then don't check it every time it rings) or simply turn it off. You really don't need to get every call the minute it comes in because whoever you are talking to face-to-face is more important.

Interrupting or Turning the Conversation Your Way

The right way to talk with a friend is to listen to what they are saying and respond. Then, when it's your turn to add something, you talk and they listen. In reality, this doesn't happen too often! Usually it's okay, especially if you've known your friend a long time, but when you're first developing a new friendship it can turn the other person off.

How to recover: Pay close attention to the person you're talking to. If you see them frown or mentally drift away when you're talking, then you are probably monopolizing the conversation. Stop yourself and say, "I'm sorry, I've interrupted. What were you saying again?" Then, let them finish their train of thought.

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