Excerpted from a SocialPro blog by Natalie Watkins

Everyone says the wrong thing from time to time. If it’s an occasional slip-up, people will usually just move on. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably finding that it’s a bigger problem than that. So what could be the reason for saying stupid things?

Common reasons for saying stupid things are poor social skills, not thinking before talking, telling too harsh jokes, trying to fill out awkward silence, or suffering from ADHD. Sometimes, social anxiety can lead us to believe we say stupid things even when we don’t.

Saying awkward or stupid things in a conversation presents two problems. As well as the social awkwardness (and sometimes hurt feelings) that come from what you have said, regularly saying the wrong thing can make you feel socially awkward and anxious and make it difficult for you to enjoy social events.

Sometimes it leads to an awkward moment or pause in the conversation. Other times it can lead to you upsetting or offending people when you really didn’t mean to.

If you find yourself saying things that you later regret, the most important thing to remember is that there are strategies you can learn to help. Here are my best tips for how to avoid embarrassing yourself, and to help you recover when you do.

Feeling like you say stupid things when you don’t
Lots of us overestimate how often we say stupid or awkward things. We also overestimate how much it is going to influence what other people think of us.[1] If you’re not sure about this, try keeping track of every silly thing that other people say in conversation. My guess is that you’ll struggle to remember them after a few minutes.

Speaking without thinking
I’ve spent years learning to think before I speak. It was so bad that there was a standing joke amongst my friends that I was often as surprised as everyone else by the words I’d just said. Just to give you an example, I was sat in my office one day when my boss came in and announced, “Natalie, I’d like all of those documents written up and ready to go out by Tuesday.”

In context, this was a huge amount of work and a pretty unreasonable request, but my mouth decided to reply without getting clearance from my brain first – “I’d like world peace and a pony.”

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