Foot in Mouth Situations

Posted on 19/02/2011


We’ve all been there — a friend drops a comment that leaves us seething, but rather than say anything, we just let the resentment rankle. No longer! Here’s how to speak up when someone’s way out of line.

Few things are more disturbing than someone you’re close to suddenly espousing views you not only disagree with but actively abhor. Sometimes there’s no going back – if the person, say, just accused black people of being hypersensitive while spouting the n-word eleven times. I was at a meeting just this past week when a top management staff dropped an absolute doppelganger, I mean, it was embarrassing enough that the statement was made, it showed this personality off as insensitive and even worse, plain ignorant! But sometimes friendships are worth trying to work through whatever idiotic gaffe a friend has just said. Only you can tell the difference, but here are some possible guidelines:

Is The Person Ignorant?

Not that it’s an excuse, but sometimes a lot of prejudice is unconscious, and sometimes all someone needs is a wakeup call in order to stop using offensive terminology. If what needs correction is ignorance rather than malice, the whole conversation has a way higher probability of being a teachable moment rather than a fight. Teach this person the ethics and morals of modern, public behaviour.

Is He/She Otherwise Caring?

Your friend may be the type of person who would be really upset to find out she’d said something prejudiced or stupid, and eager to correct it really fast. These people are probably good friends to have, or the exact right kind of people to have a “what you said was actually offensive” conversation with. The sad reality is that even caring people say silly stuff sometimes – but a good friend will want to know about it so he/she can make amends.

It’s Not Your Responsibility

I’m of the opinion that just as you don’t have to stand for every member of whatever group you belong to, you also aren’t obligated to speak out against every statement you find offensive. Nobody owes anybody an education. You, whoever you are, have the right to decide when and if you want to talk, and what you want to say. This is the option I imbibe. I have never been known to suffer fools lightly, what am I, your ethics instructor? The Chancellor of Mr. Prim and Proper Finishing School of Behaviour? You wanna stick your smelly foot in your mouth, please do so, I shall applaud!

But here’s some good advice if you’re one of those brash types who don’t know when and when not it is appropriate to make idiotic comments… it’s helpful to know what you’re going to say before you say it. Even if you’re responding in the heat of the moment, take a second to think through what you want to get across.

And perhaps you also need a prayer. Let me try to help…Do say along with me…

Dear God,

I know that I say inappropriate, offensive, idiotic and truly stupid stuff occasionally, and I try to and do often claim ignorance. I want to change for the better but it can be difficult. I wish people would just tell me when I say something offensive so that I can stop it. I don’t want to be ignorant. I don’t want to be racist, or offensive so dear God, help me so that I can know when to speak, how to speak and when to “shut up!” Amen.