How to Eat Your Words With Grace

Recovering from a case of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Posted Feb 12, 2017

Darrin Henry/Deposit Photos
Source: Darrin Henry/Deposit Photos

We’ve all done it – opened our mouth without thinking and blurted out something so incredibly insensitive and hurtful. It is the classic case of foot-in-mouth syndrome and honestly, it’s an epidemic that’s been around for eons. Unfortunately, with the help of social media and technology it is seemingly becoming a widespread pandemic, and some people have it worse than others. The only cure for this mortifying condition is self-discipline.

If you have suffered a case of open mouth and insert foot, you are not alone. In truth, most of us have had to eat our words once or twice (sometimes more) in our lives, but what do you do when your foot is halfway down your throat? How on earth do you recover and bounce back with dignity? Is it possible to save face, when people are looking at you with gaping mouths, silently asking themselves “What were you thinking?” Meanwhile, you are beet red telepathically communicating “I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Eduardo Huelin/Deposit Photos
Source: Eduardo Huelin/Deposit Photos

Fortunately, because we all have suffered this debilitating condition, we know that you can recover and life does go on. That being said, it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences, but you will survive and the following are tips to help you eat your words with grace.

  1. Apologize. No need to let your pride stand in the way. If you stuck your foot in your mouth, then you clearly said something wrong and there is no need to try to justify your behavior (in fact that will only make things worse). So, the best place to begin is with a heartfelt, genuine “I apologize for…”
  2. Eat humble pie and accept responsibility. Don’t brush off what you said and pretend nothing ever happened. Also, don’t blame or try to blame what you said on other people, it won’t work. You can only blame yourself for what comes out of your mouth. On another note, if you are talking about someone behind their back, and they happen to be standing behind your back, one of the worst things you can do is to deny you were talking about them. Don’t stick your foot in your mouth and insult their intelligence at the same time, it won’t bode well. Rather, own your mistake and accept responsibility; it’s the right thing to do.
  3. Acknowledge the hurt. Think about the hurt and pain your words have inflicted. Words can cut deeply and leave gaping wounds. You have the power to begin the healing process by acknowledging your words were hurtful. Showing remorse and empathy will go a long way in the recovery process.
  4. Pay attention. Sometimes you may not realize that you put your foot in your mouth until someone points it out to you. What do you do in this situation? The answer is follow all the above steps. When you apologize, you can say something like, “I apologize, I didn’t mean to say…”
  5. Clean it up. If your occurrence happened online, then scrub your contaminated sites squeaky clean. Sweep up and delete any hurtful, rude or unkind comments. Sure, people have already seen the post, but that doesn’t make it right to leave it up. You can replace your rant with a comment like “I apologize for my comment. It was insensitive and hurtful, so I have removed it from my site.”
  6. Forgive yourself. Don’t dwell on your mistake. Once you apologize and do the right thing, the only thing left to do is move forward. You can’t keep kicking yourself over the situation. What’s done is done, and you can learn from this mistake to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Andy Dean/Deposit Photos
Source: Andy Dean/Deposit Photos

So, see - you can eat your words with grace without getting too choked up. You can keep your foot out of your mouth by: thinking before you speak, putting yourself in another’s shoes and asking “Would I want this said to me?” and if all else fails, then practice keeping your mouth closed until the urge to speak passes. In the event you happen to stick your foot in your mouth again, then apologize and take it out with grace.

“Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” ~Unknown

If you have gracefully eaten your words in the past, please share your story in the comments section as well as how you remedied the situation!