We asked etiquette expert Lew Bayer how she would graciously recover from the most common social gaffes.
1. Congratulating a woman on her pregnancy when she’s not expecting.
Something like… You ask a client when she’s due. She looks at you confused and then annoyed. You realize she’s not pregnant – and never was.
Fast fix: Apologize and acknowledge that your comment was rude. Avoid trying to make good by complimenting her on something else, like “Well, you would make a pretty pregnant lady!”
2. Assuming a relationship between two people.
Something like… A man and a woman arrive at your curling club’s social night. Presuming they’re a couple, you introduce them as such. Turns out they’re cousins.
Fast fix: As soon as you realize your error, apologize, make a joke about how your “cousin” (meaning your significant other) is or isn’t there and properly reintroduce the man and woman.
3. Calling someone by the wrong name.
Something like… You introduce your friend Marcia to your colleague Bill, who quickly corrects you: “Actually, I’m John. Bill works in accounting.”
Fast fix: Apologize and explain that you have difficulty remembering your own name some days.
4. Arriving unprepared for an event.
Something like… You’ve arrived at the shower empty-handed because the invitation read, No gifts, please. Seeing the mountain of presents, maybe you read it wrong.
Fast fix: No need to say or do anything. Enjoy yourself. Congratulate the guest of honour and send something after if you feel you must.
5. Criticizing a lifestyle only to realize the person you’re talking to is a convert.
Something like… You’ve ranted on about the benefits – not! – of acupuncture when the person you’re speaking to reveals he’s a practitioner.
Fast fix: Smile and say, “Hmmm, I guess that’s why smart people keep their opinions to themselves,” and apologize.
Page 1 of 26. Revealing a friend’s secret you thought was common knowledge.
Something like… Commenting to a fellow hockey mom about the sad news of Jack and Jill’s divorce, you suddenly remember they’re keeping it hush-hush till the hockey season ends.
Fast fix: As soon as you realize your error, say, “I have such a big mouth and should not have mentioned this as Jack and Jill prefer to keep this private.” Then ask the other mom to keep the information confidential.
7. Serving inappropriate food to guests.
Something like… Your sister-in-law is kosher. As she takes a mouthful of your apple pie, you realize the pastry was made with lard.
Fast fix: Stop her from eating any more pie, explain the oversight and offer something suitable.
8. Mistaking the gender of a child.
Something like… After you thank “the sweet young lady” for helping out you notice her Hello sticker reads, Hi, I’m Nathan.
Fast fix: Laughingly refer to yourself as an older lady who needs to get glasses and apologize.
9. Inquiring about the health of someone who has passed away.
Something like… Every Thanksgiving you enthusiastically greet Aunt Hilda and ask about her three beloved cats. This year she bursts into tears because all three have died.
Fast fix: Apologize to Aunt Hilda for your error and encourage her to talk about the cats if she’s up to it.
10. Attending an event you weren’t invited to.
Something like… Everyone’s going out for Larry’s retirement. You heard there’s a lunch. You show up at the restaurant and find no available seats around the table – and no Larry.
Fast fix: Smile, say hello to the group, offer your best wishes and make a quick exit.
Read about the 10 embarrassing things you might say and how to cover it up.
Page 2 of 2