How to Recover from an “Oops” Moment

Rick Perry had his “oops” moment on Wednesday night, but yours could come tomorrow or even (gasp!) today. When you work fast and take on bigger-than-you’re-used-to challenges (as many of us do), verbal gaffs are bound to occur. But what will set you apart is your ability to recover. If your audience remembers your suave save more than the mistake itself – well, then, you’ve probably won them over.

One of the challenges about “oops” recovery is that there is no “one size fits all” solution. What works for one scenario may not work for another, so no matter how many tips you read, it will still be up to you to use your own critical reasoning skills and on-your-feet thinking to get out of the snafu. Which leads me to the first tip…

Stay Calm

Nothing makes an “oops” moment worse than freaking out. Overreacting also has a tendency to create new missteps, at which point you’ll have to recover from two mistakes. Not worth it!

Consider Doing Nothing

Laughter may be the best medicine in theory, but in practice silence has a lot to offer, too. Imagine mistyping the word “clip” while your computer screen is being projected in front of your boss, an employee, and several other, mostly male, colleagues. Yes, this happened to me. I quickly erased the “t” and replaced it with a “p,” but not before everyone saw the four-letter word I’d originally typed. And you know what I did? Nothing. And you know what happened? The meeting continued, uninterrupted.

Say, “Let me get back to you.”

Rarely is it a problem to ask for more time. And if you can connect your need for more time with a reason – such as running the numbers, asking a knowledgable expert, or finding the exact quote requested – then your audience is even more likely to understand your request and might even appreciate your thoroughness. Just remember to actually follow up with the answer. Dropping the ball looks much worse than not knowing in the first place.

Apologize Once, Then Move On

An apology isn’t always needed, but if you’re going to give one, give it quickly and then get back to business. Don’t try to overcompensate by apologizing profusely. Too many apologies will only make everyone feel awkward and make the entire experience last longer. And you know what happens when an “oops” moment turns into an “oops” minute? It becomes more memorable, and not in a good way.

Change Your Proposal

Only experts should attempt this tip because it can be risky to change your proposal on the fly. If you’re a candidate like Rick Perry, your website lists your platform and if you make knee-jerk adjustments, you could be seen as a flip-flopper. On the other hand, if you’re speaking candidly or aren’t being recorded, you might be able to simply change your original intentions: “Oh, did I say I’d close three agencies? Actually, I only want to close two.” Of course, you have to be willing to actually stick with the new direction – hence the riskiness of this approach.

What are your tips for recovering from an “oops” moment? Share them in the comments below!

Note of thanks: Ty Martin helped inspire this post and contributed to many of the ideas herein. Ty is a search media maven with more than six years’ experience charming executives and clients alike. His current title is Senior Associate Director of Media Insights at iCrossing.

Bonus Links!

If you liked this, you might also enjoy…

5 Ways to Win Buy-In For Your Idea
The Copywriter’s Secret Weapon
Netflix’s Big Goof: 5 Copywriting Blunders in Its Recent Announcement


~ by SFcopywriter on November 11, 2011.

One Response to “How to Recover from an “Oops” Moment”

  1. Makes me think of “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

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