Whether it's out of sheer misfortune, carelessness or bad timing, there are these foot-in-your-mouth moments that you wished you'd handled better. Yet the longer you hesitate, the more awkward it can become.
Instead of being all flustered about it, take these tips from Singapore chief etiquette coach Yvonne Anjelina to get out of these sticky situations.
1. YOU DELETE A FRIEND FROM FACEBOOK AND SHE FINDS OUT
This depends on your history with this friend and your reasons for deleting her from your Facebook contact list, says Yvonne. Ideally, if she confronts you, you should have the courage to tell her the real reason you’ve struck her off your list.
If not, feign innocence and pretend you did not even know she’s not on your list anymore. Adds Yvonne: “You’d then have to re-add her and continue to live with the very reason why you took her off in the first place!”
2. YOU ASK AN OLD FRIEND HOW HER HUBBY IS, AND SHE TELLS YOU THEY ARE NOW DIVORCED
Emphatically and earnestly say, “I’m so dreadfully sorry to hear this. How are you holding up?” You may go on and talk about her ordeal if it’s clear that she wants to share the details and her feelings with you.
Otherwise, simply close the topic with, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Then change the subject by saying something like, “Oh, did you hear that Jane is in town? We should all catch up with one another soon!”
3. YOUR COLLEAGUE RECEIVES A MIS-SENT EMAIL, FILLED WITH YOUR COMPLAINTS ABOUT HER.
You send an email to one colleague, complaining about another. Problem is, you’ve accidentally sent it to the colleague you’ve complained about! Yvonne says that this is the worst kind of rut anyone can get into. Immediately hit the “E-mail recall” option.
If this does not work, the only thing left to do is to either call or send another e-mail to the colleague you complained about, apologising to her for attempting to vent your anger with her to another colleague. While you’re at it, tell her why you are upset with her and try to come up with a solution that works for both of you. As the damage has already been done, the only way to retain some self-esteem is to be sincere, gracious and polite.
4. YOU BUMP INTO YOUR BOSS AT THE MALL WHEN YOU ARE ON SICK LEAVE
“As long as you’re not obviously having loads of fun, you may still be able to get out of this fix,” says Yvonne. How? Just be cool and greet your boss as if nothing unusual has happened. Do not immediately give reasons as to why you’re there – it just makes you sound guilty.
If your boss does question you, either give an excuse or tell her the truth – whichever is more convincing. You can say, “My daughter’s milk powder has run out”, or “I’m going home straight to bed as soon as I’m done running this errand. Thanks for your concern, boss!”
5. YOU MEET A NEIGHBOUR AT THE MRT STATION AND HER FLY IS UNZIPPED
Try not to draw too much attention to it, to avoid embarrassing your neighbour, says Yvonne. Say something like, “Your fl y is unzipped” or “You may want to check your fly”. You may even use a simple zipping gesture if you’re not comfortable telling her about it.
6. YOU’RE ALONE IN THE LIFT WITH A COLLEAGUE WHOM YOU’VE JUST HAD AN ARGUMENT WITH
“This depends on the situation and the intensity of the argument,” says Yvonne. However, it would be an ideal opportunity to “kiss and make up”. Get things going by asking, “Has this ever happened to you before?” or “Are you all right?” Rule of thumb: It’s always good to make the first move to be nice. Image: Corbis
Yvonne Anjelina is the chief etiquette coach of The Etiquette School Singapore, a training institution that provides courses on social decorum and etiquette. The school is located at Blk 26D Jalan Membina, #16-162, Membina Court, (S) 167026; tel: 6633 1951/ 8366 5542; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thetiquetteschool.com to find out more about the etiquette school.
This article was originally published in SimplyHer March 2011.