Saying the wrong thing

Contents

5 Things To Do When You Say Something You Regret

If you have ever said something and instantly wished you hadn’t then this article is for you! My friends and family may be reading this and laughing out loud thinking back to a time when I opened my mouth and (should have) inserted my foot!

Ironically, for several years my favorite song was Alison Krauss’ When You Say Nothing At All (but that’s a whole other story).

As you can see, writing this article doesn’t mean I’m immune to saying the wrong thing. I don’t always have a way with words. But I do work to learn and grow from my mistakes, (many though they might be).

Below you’ll find tips that have helped me recover from embarrassing (and potentially damaging) situations when I either said too much, said the wrong thing without thinking or didn’t say what I meant.

You probably don’t need these strategies as much as I do. But, even so, I hope they’ll help you navigate difficult circumstances when you’re in these awkward situations.

What To Do When You Say Something You Regret

1. Take a deep breath.

The last thing you want to do is overreact to the situation. If you’ve said something you regret you’ll deal with it. But first, take a few moments to decompress. De-stress.

Collect your thoughts. Evaluate what happened. How serious is the damage? Really.

Related: 5 Simple Ways To Relieve Stress And Relax

2. Tell yourself the truth.

Keep perspective and know that whatever you said, it’s not the end of the world. Things will be okay.

Overreacting is never productive.

Everyone has these days. Everyone makes mistakes. But deep down you have a good heart and you didn’t mean for your words to come out the way they did.

And even if you did, there’s a way to make things right again.

3. Sincerely apologize and make peace.

This may be the hardest step for some people but it’s imperative. If you hurt the other person – or even if you didn’t – but you know you were in the wrong, saying you’re sorry can go a long way to making amends.

If you’re too freaked out to talk to them face to face (and they aren’t ready to talk to you up close and personal anyway) write a thoughtful note or email expressing how sorry you are for hurting or offending them.

Related: 8 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

Whatever you do, don’t make excuses like I was just kidding or suggest they were being too sensitive.

Own up to your mistake.

It’s important to note that after you apologize don’t expect anything from the other person. Whether they choose to accept your apology or not is up to them.

If they welcome you back with open arms that’s wonderful, but if not, it’s their loss and you can move forward knowing you did your best to make amends.

Which leads me to #4.

4. Move forward.

Move on down, move on down the ro-oad…

Don’t live in the past.

I’m not suggesting being insensitive here at all. I’m pro kindness all the way, baby!

But if you worry about what you could have done differently or shame yourself for making a mistake you can get stuck repeating mistakes from your past.

God loves you and made you one-of-a-kind!

When we’re self-critical and hung up on what other people think of us it keeps us from seeing ourselves the way He does.

And it holds us back from living our best lives and fulfilling our purpose.

Moving forward in a positive direction allows you to reach outside of yourself to love and give more to the people around you.

So…if you’ve made a valid effort to do what’s mentioned in #3 above then move on, move forward and give yourself grace regardless of how the other person or people may react.

Related: 10 Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Upgrade Your Life

5. Learn and grow.

Use every opportunity in life, including the awkward, unpleasant ones, to improve yourself for the better.

A good time to do this is when you’re in a good headspace and can separate your feelings from the circumstances.

Evaluate situations that don’t go as you’d hoped and brainstorm different and better ways to handle things in the future.

5 Things To Do When You Say Something You Regret LoriGeurin.com

Summary

Most everyone can relate to saying awkward, uncomfortable and hurtful things to people from time to time. From the moment the words fall out of your mouth you wish you could put them right back in.

Saying something you regret is not unusual and doesn’t make you a bad person.

We don’t mean for it to happen, but sometimes it just does. For those times I hope you found some helpful tidbits here that will help!

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions below in the comment section. X, Lori

If you liked this guide on how to recover when you say something you regret, you’ll want to check out:

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  • Regret – 8 Ways to Move On

    Source: Photo: iStock

    Whoopsie! You screwed up royally.

    You behaved in a way that negatively impacted you, a situation, or the people you love. You can’t let go of the guilt and self-loathing for what you did. You believe you must be a bad person. You’re feeling stuck, undeserving of love and happiness, and downright fraudulent. You’ve convinced yourself you’re a monster.

    The negative thoughts and feelings that accompany the memories of that-thing-that-you-did are creating more problems. You’re damaging yourself – your low self worth causes increased stress and depression. You’re damaging your relationships – believing you don’t deserve to be loved actually builds walls between you and the people most important in your life – it blocks genuine intimacy. You’re damaging your career, health, spirit, and future happiness by holding onto those negative thoughts, opinions, and judgments about yourself.

    So how does it benefit you to continue the daily self-deprecation? Well… it doesn’t.

    Let’s hear what Heather Edwards has to tell us about overcoming regret. We all make mistakes, and it can eat away at us. Consider eight ways to move on.

    The Past Impacts the Present and the Future:

    Since we can’t change the past, we can focus on transforming the present moment and positively impacting the future.

    1. Accept that humans are fallible creatures. If you are reading this, you are part of the species. You will make mistakes – some big, some small. Your regret demonstrates that you care. This is a good thing. Prolonged regret, however, can interfere with all areas of your life – relationships, career, health, etc. Find your mantra. Believe in it. It might sound something like this: “I am a fallible human. I make mistakes. Nevertheless, I am loving and lovable.”
    2. How am I benefitting from self-hatred? If you, the situation, or the people you love are not benefitting from your self-loathing, then stop it. Do something else. What would be better? Consider what you really want – happiness, love, acceptance, achievement, belonging, generosity, gratitude. Focus on that. Stop “should-ing” yourself. Stop rehashing the unchangeable past!
    3. Catch the negative self-talk in action! It can seem so automatic that it’s not noticed consciously at first. Slow down those negative messages. Hear your internal monologue. Do not accept those statements as fact. Deliberately challenge them and change them to positive statements. Perhaps even the opposite thought is closer to the truth. When I say to myself, “I’m an idiot! I never should’ve done that!” the resulting feeling is shame. When I say, “Whoa, I could’ve done better. I’ll try something else next time.” The result is empowerment to strive harder in the future.
    4. What triggers those negative thoughts? Do certain people, situations, or memories trigger the negative self-talk? Prepare ahead of time with your mantra and affirming statements so that you are empowered to stay strong when confronted by them. Practice deep breathing, positive imagery, or take a time-out to regroup and rebuild your inner core. To quote Alice Walker, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
    5. How do my thoughts affect my feelings and behaviors? Buddha, Norman Vincent Peale, Gandhi, Lao Tzu, William Shakespeare, Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, Carl Sagan, and Albert Einstein all recognized the power of thoughts! They shape our intentions, feelings, motivations, and behaviors. Make your thoughts work FOR you, not against you.
    6. Focus on gratitude. Start a journal. Write about three things each day that you value and appreciate. Spend more time and energy thinking about the positive than the negative. You’ll notice a gradual shift in feeling calmer, freer, and happier.
    7. Who am I and how do I want to be? Embrace your positive qualities. Pause and take stock. How did you get to where you are in life? What attracts people to you? What makes you funny, loving, reliable, smart, interesting, or a multitude of other desirable things? Own up to your values and contributions. They exist. Cherish what makes you special.
    8. Genuinely apologize and forgive yourself. Regret and resentment keep you a prisoner of negative thoughts and emotions. Allow yourself the freedom to accept your imperfections, mistakes, and lapses of better judgment. Apologize to those affected and trust that you will be a stronger, wiser person going forward.

    Learn Something Useful:

    In regards to that-thing-that-you-did… well, without mistakes, you aren’t living life. Without mistakes, you aren’t growing, stretching, and changing. Without mistakes, you aren’t trying new things and exploring new ideas. There is no perfect human being. Let it go. Allow it to be part of your past. Start fresh now. Focus on the future and the life you want!

    The Value of Mistakes – Four Quotes:

    • “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” – James Joyce
    • “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Gandi
    • “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” – Steve Maraboli
    • “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” – Rita Mae Brown

    Research Assistant: Gabriel Banschick

    3. Speak Well Of Your Colleagues

    You already know it’s important to be a team player, which means speaking respectfully to your colleagues. But it’s sometimes difficult to put that knowledge into practice, especially the more familiar and casual your team becomes. If you get a laugh at someone’s expense, you’re already on dangerous terrain.

    Recently a boss I know was “honoring” an employee who was retiring, and his words were actually pretty scathing: “Chris is a memorable figure. One colleague will remember him for being late, another for his crazy sense of humor, and still another for the fact that he has always been a party animal.” This was all said with a wry smile and seeming goodwill, but it still felt unprofessional and inconsiderate to Chris. It doesn’t do a speaker any credit to diss a colleague, even in jest.

    When speaking off the cuff about others, never lose sight of your own values. Ideally, there shouldn’t be a “private” you and a “public” you when it comes to your values and respect for others. Granting that, not everything you share with a close colleague in a private setting should be voiced publicly. And if you unthinkingly air those views before a group in the spur of the moment, you’re more likely to say something others find deeply insulting.

    4. Show Self-Respect

    Your career also depends on your ability to project a consistent and credible “brand” for yourself. The more you move into leadership positions, the more the spotlight will shine on you. It isn’t always easy, but leaders don’t undercut themselves when they feel vulnerable, tired, or upset.

    I once heard a female VP who was feeling nervous about speaking to a large crowd remark nervously from the podium, “I hate public speaking.” Thing is, no one would’ve known that just by looking at her, but sharing it made her appear less leader-like than she might have preferred. We often hear similar slips from those accepting awards. Some say, “I really don’t deserve this,” or, “I’m not in the same league as the other winners.” We even apologize in our voicemails (“Sorry, I’m not at my desk”) when there’s no need to. The formula is simple: Show some self-respect, and you’ll command respect from others.

    It’s unfashionable to talk earnestly about “manners” these days, but showing a measure of respect is still critical in business–and that doesn’t need to mean forced formality. A little bit of tact and professionalism will get you far in your career, contributing to a better self-image and stronger relationships with others.

    How not to say the wrong thing

    When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

    “It’s not?” Susan wondered. “My breast cancer is not about me? It’s about you?”

    The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” she told him. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

    This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan’s colleague’s remark was wrong.

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    Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

    Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

    Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

    Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

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    When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

    If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

    Comfort IN, dump OUT.

    There was nothing wrong with Katie’s friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn’t think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.

    Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn’t do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

    Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don’t just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

    Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.

    And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.

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    Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of “The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators.”

    LA Times: “How not to say the wrong thing – It works in all kinds of crises — medical, legal, even existential. It’s the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out.”

    When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

    “It’s not?” Susan wondered. “My breast cancer is not about me? It’s about you?”

    The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” she told him. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

    This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan’s colleague’s remark was wrong.

    Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

    Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

    Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

    Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

    When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

    If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

    Comfort IN, dump OUT.

    There was nothing wrong with Katie’s friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn’t think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.

    Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn’t do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

    Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don’t just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

    Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.

    And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.

    Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of “The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators.”

    Mlive.com file photoSue Schroder

    That headline in the LA Times grabbed me, promising:
    “It works in all kinds of crises – medical, legal, even existential. It’s the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out.”

    For full details
    Foot-in-mouth disease is particularly prevalent when it comes to what people say to us when they find out we have cancer.

    My favorite all-time worst came from a Gilda’s Club member.

    A co-worker greeted her news by poking his head into her cubby and asking: “When you’re gone, can I have your office?”

    Susan Silk and Barry Goldman give this example in their LA Times story:

    “When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? ‘This isn’t just about you.’

    “It’s not?” Susan wondered. “My breast cancer is not about me? It’s about you?

    “The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm.

    “She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit… but she was still in rough shape.

    “A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat.

    ” ‘I wasn’t prepared for this,’ ” she told him. ‘I don’t know if I can handle it.’ “

    “This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say.”

    So what do you say?

    Enter the Ring Theory, which Susan developed and they described:

    “Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma…

    “Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma… Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people… When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.

    “Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, ‘Life is unfair’ and ‘Why me?’ That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

    “Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

    “When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help.

    “Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support.

    “If it isn’t, don’t say it.

    “Don’t, for example, give advice … Say, ‘I’m sorry’ or … ‘This must really be hard for you’ or ‘Can I bring you a pot roast?’

    “Don’t say, ‘You should hear what happened to me’ or ‘Here’s what I would do if I were you.’ And don’t say, ‘This is really bringing me down.’ “

    Sue Schroder, former features editor for The Grand Rapids Press, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in late 2009. Email her at [email protected] For an index of her columns on MLive.com/grand-rapids, visit http://bit.ly/sueschroder.

    The question

    It seems as if every time I go out to a party or any kind of social gathering I say or do something stupid. Sometimes to the point where I actually have to call the next day and apologize. And speaking of apologizing, I seem to have to do a fair amount of that to my fiancée, who will often say she is embarrassed by the things I say. But then if I keep relatively quiet she will complain that I didn’t “contribute” enough. It seems like I just can’t win. If I talk or don’t talk, either way I get in trouble. How do I navigate the treacherous waters of social interaction without constantly putting my foot in my mouth and getting myself in hot water?

    A good friend always lectures me about my life. Why can’t she stop bossing me around?

    I love my wife, but envy her successful career. How do I deal with my jealousy?

    Having a baby destroyed my marriage. Now I want my husband back. Is it too late to fix things?

    The answer

    Man, have you ever come to the right place with that question. Or the wrong place, I’m not quite sure which.

    Because my renown and expertise in the area of the faux pas is without serious peer or challenger. I am the King, the Lord of the Faux Pas. Anyone who has ever blurted out something dumb at a party should kiss the knob of my royal sceptre.

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    I am … Faux Pas-varotti. I open my mouth in social situations and they come out in one never-ending-seeming faux-pas-ria. If it weren’t for gaffes, goofs, blunders and misstatements, you could probably boil down everything I had to say on a given evening to five minutes. My unfortunate, long-suffering wife, will glare at me; has kicked me under the table; and has even brought the heel of her shoe crunchily down on my toe.

    But nothing stops Faux Pas-varotti once he is in full flight. Faux Pas-varotti makes innumerable minor blunders, but has also made some so hair-raising and eyebrow-scorching that they have burned themselves into my brain and no doubt into those of my interlocutors. “Oh, you must be so-and-so’s mother.” “No, I’m her sister.” Or: “Nice to meet you.” “Dave, we’ve met like three times before.”

    One I actually thankfully haven’t done is the classic: “Oh, hey, congratulations.” “For what?” “Well, you’re pregnant.” “No.”

    The most spine-tingling one I did not do, thank God, was at a Halloween party which had a Dickensian-type theme. Everyone was complimenting the host’s outfit. (I had basically crashed the party and didn’t know him.) “Oooh, I love that stove-pipe hat.” “The grave dust on your frock coat is a nice touch.” “And those jagged scars on your face are so realistic.”

    And I, Blurt Boy, almost blurted out: “And your teeth are really gruesome too.” But something stopped me. Again I say: Thank God. Later, a mutual friend who knew the host said to me: “Dave, those are his real teeth and he’s really sensitive about them.”

    “So, yelling out that they were gruesome might not have been that good a move.”

    My friend put his hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes, and said: “Dave, if you had done that, no one in that room would ever have been the same.”

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    But I don’t think the answer to being a faux-pas artist is to clam up in social situations. In this, I agree with your fiancée. Non-contribution is a non-viable option. Nothing worse than a ball-dropper. You just have to soldier on. Take the pain, private!

    And if you screw up and say or do the wrong thing, call (not e-mail or text, IMHO, it’s more human) the next day and apologize. You’d be surprised (and this is one of the central tenets of Damage Control) at the human capacity for forgiveness.

    Say: “Listen, sorry about that dumb/offensive/outrageous thing I said last night.” Prediction: You might be surprised at how little feathers were ruffled.

    Then, “moving forward,” to use a corporate neologism, maybe do your best to be a bit more judicious in your verbiage. I don’t know if this is your situation, but I have observed a lot of cases where people hoist on the petard of “saying what we’re all thinking but don’t dare to say.”

    Don’t do that. Bad move. It can end careers. It can end friendships. It can end marriages.

    And maybe don’t try to be funny for a while, if that’s not too weird a piece of advice. Be engaged. Listen. Be your best, true self — which is all, in the end, any of us can be.

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    Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to [email protected] Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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    It’s not a high bar, but it’s the right one–we should seek to say stupid stuff less often. Never saying something stupid is a worthy goal, but one none of us will meet. Stupidity is guaranteed. We aren’t perfect. Communication is difficult. Sometimes we fail to see the obvious. Everyone will stay stupid things. It’s a universal issue so we should be quick to give grace to others when they speak poorly, and we should be quick to seek forgiveness often because we will say the wrong things.

    But there is a restricter plate to inappropriate speech. Diverse relationships limit foolish talk. As we meet others, understand their stories, and learn to appreciate differences, we say stupid things less often. The less diverse our relationships, the more likely our speech will be insensitive, inappropriate, and illogical.

    The Danger of “Them”

    Have you ever noticed that they are idiots? Their ideas make no sense. Their conclusions are clearly wrong. Their actions are immoral. They don’t love the country like you do. They don’t have the heart you have. They aren’t as smart as you.

    They aren’t like you and that is their main problem.

    But there’s an issue. I know them. They are in the church I pastor; they are my friends on social media; they are related to someone I love. Because I know them, I realize all your opinions about them are wrong. I might agree with your opinion on specific issues, but I can’t agree with what you are saying about them. You might be right about the issue, but you are wrong about the people. And if I have to choose, I’d rather be right about people than issues.

    One of the great gifts of the pastorate is knowing a wide variety of people. While I don’t live in the most diverse part of the world, the pastorate has greatly broadened my circle of relationships. Beyond the pastorate, they say we are just three degrees away from any person on social media and the separation is shrinking daily. When the relationships are meaningful, it gives us empathy.

    Relationships should equal restraint. They don’t silence the truth. Knowing people with a diversity of opinions or beliefs, doesn’t restrain me from speaking my opinion or promoting my belief. But it greatly influences how I do so. Wanting to honor my friends, I speak with compassion, grace, and concern. I choose words carefully. I try to value the relationship even as I speak about differences.

    When relationships are absent, we often fail to restrain our words. Since we don’t know “them,” we don’t care about “them.” Our tongues are dangerous when unrestricted. They can easily demean, demoralize, and destroy.

    Two Rules When Speaking About Others

    1. If you don’t know at least one of “them”, don’t talk about any of them. When we talk about things we don’t know, our talk is stupid. We think we know what we are talking about, but we don’t. Additionally, our ignorance will make it more tempting to speak cruelly or unkindly. This tendency should limit our speech. Instead of stating our opinion or defining what “they” think, we should seek relationship. Find someone and ask questions, seek to understand perspectives, research to see if your understanding of others is right.

    2. Even if you know a few of “them,” be careful about defining all of “them.” Our tendency is to find the worst opponent and to use that person as a caricature of the other side. It’s a great way to win a debate, but a poor way to be a human being. Every group is full of diverse thought and opinions. Just because you have a friend who is different than you doesn’t mean you have a right to define every person of that group. (See: Debate the Best)

    Labels: The Warning Sign of Stupid Speech

    There is a warning sign that our speech has jumped the guardrails and become stupid. Anytime we label others as a way to distinguish us from them, we are likely speaking in an unkind and unfair way. No one likes to be labeled. I can’t stand it when someone takes the opinions of another, attaches me to those people, and then dismisses my beliefs without real conversation.

    If I don’t like it when other people do that to me, I shouldn’t do that to them. When we use labels, we are likely not interacting with an actual person or idea. Instead, we are engaging our perception of the other side. So we can easily dismiss “conservatives” or “liberals.” We talk about “us and them.” We highlight divides and try to prove our point. It feels good, but it’s stupid speech. It’s unintelligent and unproductive.

    We live in a cacophony of voices. Everything is shouting their opinion about everything nearly every second. In this day, it’s tempting to yell our thoughts without ever spending any time to think. We need to do better. None of us will avoid stupid speech all the time. But we can minimize the amount of times that we speak foolishly. To do so would be a great gift to ourselves and others.

    Open Mouth, Insert Foot

    If you have adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or live with someone who does, you know that being spontaneous is part of the package. Most of the time, this is a good thing. It’s what helps us to think on our feet and to brainstorm outside-the-box solutions to thorny problems.

    When it comes to speech, however, spontaneity has a downside. I was reminded of that during a recent coaching session. As a client walked into my office, she noticed my newly highlighted hair. “Awesome hairdo,” she said. “It really hides the gray.” After an awkward silence, we both burst out laughing. I told her, “You were supposed to say, ‘Awesome hairdo. You look beautiful.’”

    Not every case of impulsive speech is funny. Ever congratulate a woman — only to discover she’s not expecting a child? Ever badmouth a dish at a potluck dinner — only to discover you’re speaking to the person who made it? Once I ruined a surprise toga party (don’t ask) by accidentally mentioning it to the guest of honor! You already know not to talk politics or religion at social gatherings. Here are some other ways to watch what you say:

    Make sure you know the topic before joining a conversation. When you begin with, “I know what you mean” and then go on to say the opposite of what was just said, it makes for an awkward moment. Don’t speak, or speak slowly, until you know exactly what you intend to say.

    Don’t be too quick to share intimate information. As my grandmother used to say, “If you wouldn’t want to see what you just said on the front page of the newspaper, don’t say it at all.”

    If you’re angry, wait until you’ve cooled down before having a discussion. To keep from shouting when you’re excited, take a breath and aim for a whisper instead.

    If you offend someone, apologize at once. Remember, a good apology does not come with an excuse. Right way: “That was rude. Please forgive me.” Wrong way: “Sorry I said that. I’m running on four hours of sleep. It’s a wonder I can even think straight.”

    Bring paper and pencil to important meetings. Jot down your comments and share them with co-workers at your leisure. If your e-mails are getting you in trouble, save them in the “draft” folder for 24 hours before sending them.

    When asked your opinion, say, “Give me a moment to think about that.” The extra second or two buys you time to come up with an appropriate response.

    Avoid gossip. A friend posted a sign outside her cubicle that reads, “Updates on the grandchildren, good news, and funny jokes are welcome! Gossip, complaints, and jokes in bad taste are not.”

    Last but not least, if you are throwing a surprise party… good luck!

    Save

    Updated on July 16, 2018

    How To Stop Punishing Yourself When You Say Stupid Things

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    It happens. We all have verbal diarrhea from time to time.

    Sometimes we say something we think is funny. Other times we’re just being rude.

    Heck, sometimes we don’t even know why we get the feeling we’ve said something wrong or offensive.

    For whatever reason, often within seconds…

    Ours words suddenly rub us the wrong way.

    Worse:

    The bad feeling that won’t go away starts to itch…

    It may even burn, sometimes leading us to say even more ludicrous things that make us feel even worse.

    Once those words are out there … they’re out there.

    The worst thing of all:

    This Problem Chews Up Your Mental Space And
    Memory Resources!

    Make no mistake:

    The things we say can be damaging.

    Very damaging, especially regarding how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.

    But it’s probably our self-perception that takes the hardest hit, especially if we have OCD tendencies and repeat words and phrases in our minds.

    (That happens to me a lot, along with earworms.)

    The “Childish” Reasons People Self-Punish

    Ultimately, no one knows why we self-punish.

    It could be that our bodies and minds are trying to build up energy to deal with the pain. But we do it in a childish way.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein has been credited with originating the story of the child who made his way into a cocktail party.

    While there, the child banged his knee on a table and started crying loudly.

    “There, there” said all the adults when they saw his bloodied knee.

    And the adults continued cooing at the child to comfort him as they applied rubbing alcohol and a bandaid to the wound.

    Now imagine the same cocktail party.

    This time, instead of a child, a grown man bangs his knee.

    He feels the exact same pain and his wound produces the same amount of blood.

    But the difference is that the man does not bawl in public.

    Instead, the grownup observes silently that he has banged his knee and excuses himself to the washroom.

    There, he finds the rubbing alcohol on his own and administers a bandaid.

    Do You Scream In Silence?

    Why does the man do all of this in silence instead of crying his heart out?

    Simple:

    Social conditioning over the years has not changed the nature of the pain or the work needed to care for the wound.

    But social conditioning has changed the nature of what makes for an appropriate response to the pain.

    According to some self-punishment theories, even the maturest of adults have minds that still need conditioning so that they respond in mature ways to mental pain.

    Exactly How To Mature Your Mind And
    Stop Mentally Punishing Yourself

    I don’t know about you, but in my past, I’ve called myself an idiot for the verbal mistakes I’ve made at least a thousand times.

    In fact…

    I’ve said many things worse than that to myself. And no, I’m not going to repeat them.

    But I’ve come to understand that they were just the signs and symptoms of an untrained mind. There was nothing wrong with that mind. It just hadn’t been matured.

    And although this self-punishment still happens once in awhile, I’ve learned to settle the self-abuse down.

    The cure mostly comes down to a combination of relaxation, mindset and huge respect for memory and the practice of memory improvement and maintenance over many years.

    Here are four ways I’ve dealt with the self-punishment so that it no longer chews up memory power, no longer bashes self-esteem and no longer has the power to reduce life satisfaction:

    Tip #1:
    Learn The Scary Truth About Social Inattention

    Here’s a power reality:

    A HUGE percentage of the things we say to others tend to be forgotten.

    In fact, thanks to something called inattentional blindness, most people barely perceive what you’re saying at all.

    Why?

    Because the people you’re talking to are barely paying attention.

    Even if they were, human memory is flawed in your favor.

    If the minds of other people are barely tracking a tenth of what you’re saying, they are encoding far less than that into memory.

    The Ultimate Proof That Few People
    Remember What You Say

    Want proof?

    Go ahead and study yourself when listening to others and I think you’ll find that it’s true.

    You’re not focused like a laser on what they’re saying.

    You’re not enjoying photographic memory, nor recording everything like a video camera.

    Quite the opposite.

    The truth?

    Your Mind Is All Over The Place!

    More than half the time, you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next. You’re probably even obsessively repeating what you want to say in your mind so you won’t forget.

    The rest of your conscious mind is either thinking about the past, the future or fantasizing about some alternate present.

    This significant amount of brain activity means that you’ll miss entire details completely.

    All this happens despite the fact that you’ll be experiencing reality as an unbroken continuity.

    Scary, but true.

    What this all means is that when you say inappropriate things, you shouldn’t get too worried about it and start flagellating yourself.

    You also shouldn’t start self-punishing yourself for having the attention span of a goldfish (you don’t).

    But if you get all hot and bothered about something you said, the best trick I know is to confront the feeling head-on.

    Just ask the person point blank:

    “Did what I said about x a little earlier offend you? Because I apologize if it did.”

    Chances are you’re the only one bothered by what you said, and it’s probably already been forgotten – assuming it was registered in the first place.

    If you punish yourself at all for things you’ve said, please take up this practice of publicly confronting this feeling.

    You will feel tremendous relief when you do.

    Tip #2:
    Take Responsibility For Your Verbal Oil Spills

    As I’ve just suggested, one great solution to managing your anxiety about verbal diarrhea is to confront it directly. If you’ve said something that bothers you, don’t be afraid to draw attention to it.

    And go in prepared to do so.

    Decide to be a conscientious conversationalist and own up to every faux pas you make.

    In other words:

    If you say something that either is insulting or you feel could be interpreted as insulting, be the one to call yourself out on it.

    What’s the worst that can happen?

    The answer is simple:

    The worst that can happen is that people think you’re weird…

    Not such a bad thing, is it?

    In all likelihood, they’ll probably appreciate you more and admire you.

    Why?

    Because you take ownership over your mouth – even if they never noticed the thing you said in the first place.

    Tip #3:
    Always Be Cool

    I can’t always pull it off the Always Be Cool rule due to food sensitivities and psoriasis arthritis.

    Unfortunately, even with the strict dietary controls I place on my diet, it’s impossible to know the location of every farm and every nibble eaten by every chicken.

    So yes, some things send me into a conniption that can last far too long. But overall, I’m generally a calm and cool guy.

    I owe that stability to a few things.

    The first is regular meditation. I practice multiple kinds, mostly structured around the sit-just-to-sit variety I learned from an Alan Watts recording.

    I’ll also practice Savasana, breath-withholding and walking meditations that incorporate a bit of both. (Yes, you can lay down in parks during walks.)

    Use Memory Techniques Everyday For Mental Relief

    Second, I use memory techniques everyday. For reasons that go beyond learning.

    Make no mistake:

    A lot of people use memory techniques as a means to an end, which is great.

    That’s what memory techniques are there for.

    Learning a new language, remembering numbers, remembering names, and more.

    Why Memory Techniques Are
    Better Than Psychoanalysis

    But there’s also tremendous therapy to be had from memory techniques. They make you feel confident, composed and relaxed.

    These outcomes are especially important when you’re a guy like myself who is always fighting for stability and hoping to stay off medication to do it.

    If you want the background to that story, here’s a video from quite some time ago when I declared I was going on the psychopharmaceutical sauce for good:

    As brave as I sound in that video, it was actually one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life.

    But everything worked out.

    Why?

    The answer is simple:

    Memory Techniques + Meditation =
    The Perfect Time Machine

    When you practice meditation and memory, you’re always more in the moment.

    In other words, you’ve got a “time machine” that keeps you focused on the present.

    Why is being present so cool?

    Because true presence means that you’re paying attention to what you’re saying BEFORE you say it.

    And that’s the ultimate solution to self-punishment:

    Pre-awareness that prevents you from making the kinds of errors you punish yourself for in the first place.

    Tip #4:
    Learn To Listen To Yourself And Others

    This one is going to require a bit of self-analysis and the study of others. It might also be considered half-lunacy, as Freud himself noted in his General Introduction to Psychoanalysis lectures.

    Beyond that, the premise is that we all unconsciously encode messages in the things we say that seek to communicate what we’re really thinking.

    We typically tend to send these messages in the form of the stories we tell or off-handed remarks. They can be attempts at manipulation, retaliation or simply telling truths too dangerous for our conscious mind to handle.

    I learned to spot the tendency to encode information unconsciously in myself and others from Robert Langs.

    Langs was a controversial figure with whom I underwent Communicative Psychotherapy in New York. His style of therapy is based almost entirely on dream interpretation in a situation in which death anxiety is deliberately invoked by the therapist.

    Langs died recently and I’m still stunned by his passing.

    He seemed like one of those timeless figures who would always be around, particularly because his ideas were so impactful and larger than life.

    Although I only spent six months in weekly sessions with him, in addition to reading his books, my time with Langs completely changed my way of living and communicating.

    How To Get The Best Psychotherapy
    In The World At Very Little Cost

    The best way to learn how to spot your unconscious communications without the help of a therapist is to journal your dreams. You’re not going to try and interpret them as such, but just get a feeling for the kinds of narratives that come up.

    In a session with Langs, he would ask you to narrate one or more dreams. He would then have you free associate to it and recite whatever came to your mind.

    This task always brought up a lot of irrational resistance in me. There was never any reason not to tell Langs the things that came to my mind, but yet it would often seem threatening to do so. Sometimes the resistance would bring the session to a complete shutdown.

    Gradually I learned to open up and reveal the connections that would come up in my mind. I couldn’t always do it, but Langs would always ask what the dream and how I related it had to do with him.

    It was always a perplexing question, but I’ll never forget the day I finally drummed up the courage to start answering it.

    Because the truth is that when we tell stories to others, there does always seem to be some comment we’re making on the present situation and the person to whom we’re speaking.

    So if you can find someone to whom you can tell your dreams and who can hear what you’re REALLY saying, this is a great way to practice the awareness of what you’re saying in any conversation.

    And you can learn to listen to others better too. That doesn’t mean judging them or necessarily telling them what you’ve perceived. But it will help you form better ideas about the real messages you’re receiving and shape how you respond in more sensitive ways.

    Ready To Stop The Self-Punishment?

    Although it won’t necessarily happen overnight and may still recur from time to time, you can get a handle on punishing yourself for saying stupid things.

    Just use the tips above and you’ll start to see a difference immediately.

    And if you’re interested in learning more about how self-directed dream therapy can help, I recommend getting my video course with its bonuses, How To Remember Your Dreams.

    In this course, you’ll learn more about hearing your true voice by unlocking an aspect of memory improvement that you’ve likely never considered before.

    Use Coupon Code “DREAM” and take $50 off your tuition in this exclusive memory improvement course. Alternatively, you can get How to Remember Your Dreams as part of the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass.

    You might want to take my free course on creating Memory Palaces first.

    The choice is up to you and we’d love to hear you in the conversation below. What are your thoughts on defeating self-punishment for the stupid things we sometimes say and do?

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    Ever Say Something Stupid? Get To Know Your Shame

    My 12-year-old came to me last night and reported that he felt very ashamed. Apparently, he said something stupid to a friend. Then, the friend got angry and went and twisted it and told other kids what he said. It didn’t go over well so the whole basketball team was miffed at him. I hate that that happened, but most of us have been there before.

    Have you ever said something stupid?

    Here are the first few situations that popped into my head where I have said something stupid.

    • I once told a girl that I didn’t know well that her boobs “looked really fabulous today.” I just said it in a random, girlie girl, “we are all friends” kinda way and had no idea that she had just returned from plastic surgery after getting a breast enlargement. She must have thought I knew and was torturing her because she turned blood red and never spoke to me again. (Nice, Cherilynn.)
    • I told my boss with only one week left at work to “not talk to me in that manner. I am an adult and a ___year-old woman and would like to be talked to in a way that isn’t hostile and sarcastic.” He flipped out and I immediately realized that I could no longer use him as a reference. Just one week left of work? (Not smart, Cherilynn.)
    • I told my supposedly new boss in a final interview that “I was incredibly good at corporate politics” and that I could “play the political game really well.” I was maybe 24 years old and blabbering out of nervousness. The interviewer’s eyes got really wide and she looked at me with total paranoia. Clearly, I was not very good at corporate politics. Needless to say, I did not get the job.

    I hope you laughed when you read those.

    How do we recover from our gaffes?

    The best way to cope when we suffer from a verbal snafu is to:

    1. Try to learn from the feelings of shame that these situations create.
    2. Use the mistake to practice humility.
    3. Find the learning lessons in the mistake.
    4. Practice laughing at yourself.

    SHAME. Ugh!
    Shame is one of the hardest of human emotions to bear. And it is normal for people to want to run from this negative feeling. Do not do this. Why?

    If you try to run from this feeling and not look at it (I am not kidding), it will stay tucked away inside you as this powerful yucky feeling. When you spend time allowing it to come out, it loses some of its power and won’t get triggered so severely when another “shame opportunity” rears its ugly head. (And it will, people. That’s just how life is.)

    How do you overcome your shame?
    One way is to get to know it a little better. Spend some time today or this week getting to know and remembering those shame memories so you can overcome them.

    Do this:
    Ask yourself, when you feel shame, where do you feel it? Many people blush or turn red. I feel this heavy feeling in the middle of my chest. Think of a memory that really brings up that feeling. Where is it? What does it feel like?

    Interestingly, a lot of our shame-based feelings get set when we are children. And if you came from a home where there was any dysfunction, you will probably feel shame much more strongly than you deserve. When you recognize it and allow yourself to feel it in your body, it loses some of its negative power.

    In addition, when these feelings come up, forgive yourself, tell yourself things like:

    • You aren’t perfect.
    • You are human.
    • You will make mistakes.
    • It is okay.

    Then, move on.

    There is great learning in our shame. In my case, I should have said something sooner to the boss that had a habit of treating me and the other social workers so poorly. That would have decreased the venom when I finally got up the courage to say something to him.

    What else did I learn from those experiences? … to stop and think (instead of talking) when I’m nervous. Say less.

    Luckily, over the years I have learned to keep my mouth shut more often. However, I am a spontaneous, open, expressive woman and that is just going to get me into trouble sometimes. Luckily, most people are pretty forgiving. Now that I am older, I don’t feel nearly as shameful as I used to. I have also learned that apologies are often accepted.

    It is hard to recover when we make big bloopers and embarrass ourselves. When this happens, though, we have to shake it off, apologize when appropriate, and then move forward.

    Share the stupid things you have said to other people.
    Please share some funny stories about things you may have said that were less than ideal! We can all use a good laugh and the knowledge that we are not alone in our fallibility. Feel free to use a fake name if you want.

    Take care,
    Cherilynn

    Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago.
    She also blogs about home, work, life and love
    at www.stopgivingitaway.com.

    Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support!

    Pic compliment of designwallah via Compfight cc Compfight.

    Ever Say Something Stupid? Get To Know Your Shame

    Read as Single PagePage 1 of 2 Image: James Whatley | Flickr

    Every time I preach there’s a chance I’ll say something stupid.

    Sometimes my mistakes are harmless, like when I quoted God at the burning bush telling Moses, “Take off your feet, you’re standing on holy ground.”

    Other times people get hurt. Sometimes the very people I’m trying to help.

    Now that I’m blogging three times a week, I’ve gone from one chance to four chances. Add radio/podcast interviews and my conference speaking schedule, and I can have up to eight or nine chances to put my foot in my mouth.

    That happened last week. In my most recent post, Check the Mirror, Pastor – After Five Years, Your Church Looks Like You, I wrote “If you’ve been the pastor of your church for five years or longer, it’s time to stop blaming your predecessors, your circumstances and your congregation. Like it or not, after five years, your church looks like you.”

    I believe that is generally true. During an extended pastorate, the church starts taking on the characteristics – especially the spiritual maturity – of the pastor. But I did not take into account that, in many cases, the process takes much longer than five years.

    There are many churches with endemic, long-term dysfunction or deep cultural roots where it will take 7, 10, even a dozen or more years of hard, wise, prayerful work to bring the necessary turnaround. Because I did not take those situations into account, I caused some unintentional pain to the pastors I want to help the most.

    That oversight was pointed out to me – very graciously, I might add – by a couple of those pastors. So I updated my post to apologize for the oversight and to reflect their advice.

    This got me thinking about what we can learn when we’re criticized for saying or writing something that turns out to be incorrect, even hurtful.

    1. Listen to Valid Criticism – Ignore the Rest

    I’m always looking for valid criticism. Because it helps me get better.

    I’m always looking for valid criticism. Because it helps me get better.

    But, in order for it to be valid, it must meet at least two criteria:

    First, it must be a mistake, not just a difference of opinion.

    For example, there were two types of criticisms offered on my previous post (along with many, many more positive responses, for which I’m always grateful).

    One pointed out an inaccuracy – that the five year limit wasn’t always enough time. The other pointed out a difference of theological and ecclesiastical opinion – that churches shouldn’t be structured the way they are.

    View as Single Page Page:12

    It feels like everything I say comes out wrong

    This just comes down to practice. I used to be a terrible speaker. I was so bad I was afraid to even try, I had huge performance anxiety and would freeze up when I was called on in class. But it really just comes down to practice. Speaking is a skill, and just like any skill, it can be learned and improved. The first way I got better was by surrounding myself with a group of really social people and forcing myself to be outgoing. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it helped, and I got better.

    Part of it is just mindset. You need to understand and internalize that the stakes are extremely low to speaking out loud. There are absolutely no consequences. You will not lose friends. You will not be ostracized or killed. You will barely be judged at all. It doesn’t matter. Just treat it as a learning experience, an opportunity to grow as a person and get better at a very useful skill, and PRACTICE. On people. Just talk. Look around. “Ooh, that stack of pizza boxes is tall.”

    Part of the process is saying meaningless things about meaningless things. But you won’t learn what to say and how to say it well unless you talk too much first. There will be a phase where you’re annoyingly outgoing before you find the version of yourself that is completely comfortable talking about anything, but because you’re naturally introverted you have no real comulsion to do so often. I would argue it’s worth going through the process that results in discovering that version of yourself. I’m glad I did, even though I still have some things I said and did that cause me to cringe. Whatever, even those are funny looking back if you allow them to be.

    Why I’m Wrong About Everything (And So Are You)

    Five hundred years ago cartographers believed California was an island. Doctors believed that slicing your arm open and bleeding everywhere could cure disease. Scientists believed fire was made out of something called phlogiston. Women believed rubbing dog urine on their face had anti-aging benefits. And astronomers believed the sun revolved around the earth.

    When I was a little boy, I used to think “mediocre” was a kind of vegetable and that I didn’t want to eat it. I thought my brother had found a secret passageway in my grandma’s house because he could get outside without having to leave the bathroom (spoiler alert: there was a window). I also thought that when my friend and his family visited “Washington BC” they had somehow traveled back in time to when the dinosaurs lived, because after all, “BC” was a long time ago.

    As a teenager, I used to try and not care about anything, when the truth was I actually cared way too much. I thought happiness was a destiny and not a choice. I thought love was something that just happened and not something that was worked for. I thought that being “cool” had to be practiced and learned from others rather than invented for oneself.

    When I was with my first girlfriend, I thought she would never leave me. And then when she left me, I thought I’d never feel the same way about a woman again. And then when I felt the same way about a woman again, I thought that love sometimes just wasn’t enough. And then I realized that you get to decide what is “enough,” and love can be whatever you let it be for you, if you so choose.

    Every step of the way I was wrong. About everything. All throughout my life, I was flat-out wrong about myself, others, society, culture, the world, the universe, everything. And I hope that will continue to be the case for the rest of my life.

    Just as Present Mark can look back on Past Mark’s every flaw and mistake, one day Future Mark will look back on Present Mark’s assumptions and notice similar flaws. And that will be a good thing. Because that will mean I have grown.

    There’s that famous Michael Jordan quote about failing over and over and over again, and that’s why he succeeds. Well, I am always wrong about everything, and that’s why my life improves.

    We don’t want to hear that we’re wrong. But we need to in order to grow.

    Knowledge is an eternal iterative process. We don’t go from “wrong” to “right” once we discover the capital-T Truth. Rather, we go from partially wrong to slightly less wrong, to slightly less wrong than that, to even less wrong than that, and so on. We approach the capital-T truth, but never reach it.

    Therefore, from a perspective of happiness/purpose, we should not seek to find the ultimate “right” answer for ourselves, but rather seek to chip away at the ways which we’re wrong today so that we’re a little less wrong tomorrow.

    When looked at from this perspective, personal development can actually be quite scientific. The hypotheses are our beliefs. Our actions and behaviors are the experiments. The resulting internal emotions and thought patterns are our data. We can then take those and compare them to our original beliefs and then integrate them into our overall understanding of our needs and emotional make-up for the future.

    This approach to personal development is superior because it relies on experience first and foremost, and then proper interpretation of experience through various belief systems second.

    For example, let’s say you aspire to be a professional writer. You have assumptions you’ve made about yourself — you’re creative, you love to express yourself, people enjoy your writing, you would be happy writing every day, and so on. And now you want to pursue an end-goal of turning that into a profession.

    I get tons of emails from people in this situation and they all ask the same question, “What should I do?”

    The answer is easy. You write. A lot.

    You test those beliefs out in the real world and get real-world feedback and emotional data from them. You may find that you, in fact, don’t enjoy writing every day as much as you thought you would. You may discover that you actually have a lot of trouble expressing some of your more exquisite thoughts than you first assumed. You realize that there’s a lot of failure and rejection involved in writing and that kind of takes the fun out of it. You also find that you spend more time on your site’s design and presentation than you do on the writing itself, that that is what you actually seem to be enjoying.

    And so you integrate that new information and adjust your goals and behaviors accordingly.

    This, in a nutshell, is called life. Or at least what life should be. But somewhere along the way we all became so obsessed with being “right” about our lives that we never end up living it.

    We often say that people don’t take action because they’re afraid of failure. You’re single and lonely and want a boyfriend but you never get out of the house and do anything. Or you work your ass off and believe you deserve a promotion but you never confront your boss about it. The conventional wisdom about these situations is that you’re simply afraid of failure, of rejection, of someone saying “no.”

    But it goes beyond that. Sure, rejection hurts. Failure sucks. But there are certainties we hold onto which we are afraid to question or let go of, certainties which meet our needs and give our lives meaning. That woman doesn’t get out there and date because she would be forced to confront her certainty of her own desirability and self-esteem. That man doesn’t ask for the promotion because he would have to confront his certainty about the value of his work and whether he’s actually productive or not.

    These certainties are designed to give us moderate comfort now by mortgaging greater happiness later. They’re terrible long-term strategies. These are the certainties that keep us in place and out of touch. These are the certainties that drive people into despair, prejudice or radicalism.

    Getting somewhere great in life has less to do with the ability to be right all the time and more to do with the ability to be wrong all the time. What are you wrong about today that can lead to your improvement?

    So try it. Assume that you’re wrong — about everything. See where that takes you. Whatever you’re struggling with right now, practice some uncertainty. Ask yourself, “What if I was wrong about this?” Because I can tell you that you are. You are wrong about that and everything else too, just like me and just like everybody else.

    And that’s good news.

    Because being wrong means change. Being wrong means improvement. It means not cutting your arm open to cure a cold or splashing dog piss on your face to look young again. It means not thinking “mediocre” is a vegetable or being afraid to care.

    In five hundred years, people will point and laugh at how we let our money and our jobs define our lives. They will laugh at how we were afraid to show appreciation for those who matter to us most. They will laugh at our rituals and superstitions, our worries and our wars. They will gawk at our cruelty. They will study our art and argue over our history. They will understand truths about us of which none of us are even aware of yet.

    And we will have been wrong about pretty much everything. Just as they will be wrong about everything too, albeit a little less wrong.

    And maybe, possibly — hopefully! — they will look back on our world and think, “Wow, how did they live like that?”

    This article is an excerpt from my book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Guide to Living A Good Life

    We all think we know ourselves well, but psychological studies show otherwise. In fact, most of us are somewhat deluded about ourselves. I put together a 22-page ebook explaining how we can come to know ourselves better, just fill out your email in the form.

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