"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

--Theodore Roosevelt

So, it finally happens. You ask an old colleague about their current job, without knowing that weeks prior they were unceremoniously fired. Or, you say something to your co-worker about a peer, and that very same peer is actually standing behind you.

We all make mistakes, but how we deal with them is what can make or break our relationships. If you find yourself having said the wrong thing in a conversation, here's how to deal with the situation with grace.

1. Take a second and evaluate the situation.

How damaging were your comments? Did anyone notice or care? Spend a few moments determining if what you said was truly detrimental to the conversation. If your blunder doesn't make a scene, don't make things worse and bring more attention to a slip-up that might not have actually been problematic.

2. Speak up.

If you know you have made a big mistake, own up to it. Be upfront about your comments and bring an apology into the picture. A statement retraction will require a genuine, heartfelt apology, especially if what you said was perceived as hurtful or rude.

3. Provide a resolution.

When you say the wrong thing, don't make excuses. This is your opportunity to right a wrong, not provide a terrible mistake cover-up. Say something like "I'm sorry, what I said just came across much ruder than I intended." Then follow this with what you actually meant to say--provide context for your initial reaction and clearly explain your thoughts. Be level-headed if you want to relieve any lingering tension.

4. Keep it moving.

Hopefully, your blunder wasn't so massive that it completely ruins a relationship. If so, do not let the stupid thing you said consume you, unless you want to re-experience your mistake over and over. No one likes these kinds of moments, but the reality is, we all end up in similar circumstances every so often. Move forward with grace and use this situation as a lesson to improve your communication and conflict resolution skills.

Published on: Jan 20, 2020
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