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Whaaat!? How To Handle Verbal Gaffes At Work

Mitt Romney introduces the next President of the United States, someone gets shot out of a cannon during the Closing Ceremonies in London, and Jennifer Aniston is marrying some guy named Justin. And how was your weekend?

In other news, Google lets slip about its death benefit policy where the spouses or domestic partners of departed employees continue to collect 50% of the deceased's salary annually for the next ten years, but let's not talk about Google's totally awesome death benefits. It's simply too depressing, especially in this economy, and we want to enjoy the rest of the summer. Way to go, Google, for making every other company feel like a tightwad cheapskate, though. Again.

Should we talk about the CDC warning that the United States is on the verge of an antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea epidemic? That will be fun to deal with at work, especially with a survey finding many managers still can't manage, but no. Let's not go there, either.

So what's left to talk about during the news dregs of summer? Well, I'm still fascinated by Romney's verbal gaffe over the weekend, because don't we all make a few of those every so often? You meant to say "best" but "breast" came out of your mouth instead. Or "ship" gets replaced by a nearly-the-same word ending in "t." Or you said "sex million" instead of "six million." Or you put your running mate on top of the ticket. Oops. Does it matter what you said? No, because if you're lucky enough to catch yourself, then your internal reaction will always be the same. Oh, crap! Did I just say that!? Oh, God, I did! What do I do now?

You have a split second to decide. Do I acknowledge my verbal gaffe or do I just let it slide? Rhyming aside, with any luck you'll never face this dilemma in front of co-workers, a boss, a big client, a hiring manager, or hundreds of teevee news cameras, but it could happen, especially if you're a busy, sleep-deprived human being like the rest of us. When you're working on six hours a sleep a night, you can start to feel like Gaylord Focker in Meet the Parents trying to set things right before he's finally let into the circle of trust. What I really meant to say was...

So how should we handle our verbal blunders? I assume you won't be introducing the next President of the United States, and even Romney admits he's rather haunted by the his past verbal gaffes. It's a universal vice, really. Short of not saying anything at all ever again, catching our verbal diarrhea in the moment and making light of it with a quick inclusion of "sorry" if it seems right is usually the best option if you're quite certain your gaffe was overheard. Then move on, and don't look back.

Most of your fellow humans will be forgiving, because they'll quietly be remembering their own awkward verbal gaffes and feeling thankful that it's not their turn. And if they give you a disapproving glance, then rest assured they're still feeling thankful that it's not their turn.

Yes, the people who overheard you will get another turn on the wacky word roller coaster. Eventually. Probably when they're very tired, stressed out, or otherwise distracted. It happens. Too all of us. We're simply racing the cock to our next verbal gaffe. Er, clock.

Just thank your lucky stars that the cable news networks don't have your most embarrassing mouthal moments on repeat play with analysts dissecting them for hours on end. Or worse, having Jon Stewart decide to include them in the next episode of The Daily Show, and you suddenly become the "sex million" guy forever and ever. Yes, that would be a bit...disconcerting. Feel better? I thought so.


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