That's not the beginning of a joke.

Last Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams had dinner with a group of friends at a Maryland pizzeria. (Williams was in town for a game that took place on Monday.) Upon leaving, Williams paid the bill of $128.26, leaving a tip of 75 cents.

Soon afterwards, one of the servers went to social media to complain, calling the NFL player "cheap" and even directing an expletive towards him. Johan Malcolm, who is an employee of the pizzeria (but did not serve Williams and his group), also tweeted the following:

"don't go out to eat if you cant tip right. Just cook something or order carryout"

Soon afterwards, Williams defended himself through Twitter, claiming he got bad service.

In his rebuttal, Williams claimed:

  • He and his group waited over 1.5 hours for their food
  • When Williams' order came, it was wrong
  • The waitress never asked for refills

The NFL player also didn't take well to Malcolm's claim that Williams' "momma should've raised you right." (Williams' mother passed away in 2014 from cancer.)

Williams indicated that he could have handled things differently, by asking to speak to management. Instead, he says, "I simply didn't leave a tip for the hardly working server that expected a tip."

To conclude, Williams pointed out that he used to wait tables so he knows what it's like on the other side.

Malcolm and Williams continued their Twitter back-and-forth for a while, but then Malcolm stops tweeting--for over 24 hours.

When Malcolm returned, he issued a full apology.

The Aftermath

Of course, without having been there on Sunday, there's no way to know exactly what went down. Could Williams have shown some empathy for someone who makes much, much less money than him? Of course.

But none of us can say exactly what we would have done in the situation.

Instead, I'd like to focus on the lessons from the restaurant employee's actions.

Here are some excerpts from a series of tweets, which Malcolm posted along with his apology, after that 24 hour pause (tweets have been combined and edited for grammar):

I took some time to reflect on the issue and how it was handled.

I realized that this not only affected me but my family, my job, etc... the way I had expressed myself was not a reflection of who I am and obviously what I shouldn't have done. I didn't use logic in my actions but reacted in emotions, which caused me to be arrogant, rude, and actually disrespectful.

I want to apologize for the demeaning of your character, for I do not know you and do not know what you've been through. The nasty words that I had said to you were utterly wrong and I do take full responsibility for everything.

Also, I want to apologize to you sir for referencing your mother in the dialogue. I am truly sorry for mentioning her... I also want to say sorry for your experience at Ledo's. I wish we did make it more enjoyable for you and it's our fault.

I've written extensively in the past about the value of the pause, a strategy used in connection with emotional intelligence. When we're in an emotional state, pausing for a few minutes--or at times a few seconds--and thinking things through can make a major difference in how we act. For sure, the pause could have helped Malcolm here.

But the pause is easier in theory than practice. The fact is, no matter how emotionally intelligent we become, we'll never handle ourselves perfectly in every situation. Stress and other external factors can easily influence us, and we end up doing something we regret. (Remember how Ayesha Curry went off on Twitter just a few months ago?)

Nonetheless, Malcolm's apology is also an excellent example of emotional intelligence.

Many people would have stuck to their guns in this situation, refused to apologize, and taken whatever consequences came along with it. The problem with this is even after the "heat of the moment" has passed, such people refuse to get their emotions in check--and don't really learn anything from the situation.

In contrast, Malcolm took time to reflect on his actions, and consider how he would have handled things differently.

He also found the strength and courage to say two words that evade many throughout their lives:

I'm sorry.

Parting Thoughts

So remember: Emotional intelligence can help you avoid many situations like this one.

But all of us make mistakes.

The next time you do, don't give up on the situation. Take time to reflect, and find the strength to say sorry if needed. Then, let the situation make you better for the next time.

Because a pause is better late than never.

Published on: Sep 15, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.