A couple blog posts ago I wrote about getting sponsorships off on the right foot and how important it is in these relationships to pronounce a sponsor’s name right. I shared the story of how Mitt Romney knew the importance of saying Bombardier’s name the right way. What I didn’t share in that post was how after the questions ended at the press conference announcieg Bombardier as a sponsor, Mitt Romney decided to climb into one of Bombardier’s snow grooming machines.
As he sat in the cockpit of the snow groomer he said something along the lines of how cool it was to sit in it and how he imagined it being like sitting in a Ferrari. As he said it, he quickly, almost immediately followed that up with the statement that he had never driven a Ferrari, so he wasn’t speaking from experience.
I remember laughing and feeling bad for Mitt all at the same time. Had I said that statement it wouldn’t’ have been a big deal. It would have been clear that I was simply theorizing what it’s like to be in a Ferrari. However, because Mitt is wealthy the automatic assumption is that he must own or at one point has owned a Ferrari. Mitt was very conscious of this perception and I’m sure that’s why the clarification came as quickly as it did.
The right words are important and if the wrong word is used it can cause embarrassment or even do irreparable damage. Failure to choose your words wisely may not be as severe as in this Indiana Jones clip, but it can cause lasting damage or be incredibly embarrassing as it was for Oprah Winfrey.
There are other times where you may repeat something and inadvertently say something embarrassing.
Many of these instances arise as a result of nerves or trying to improvise. In these cases, I recommend taking a minute to pause and think about what you want to say. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment to decide what you want to say. If you’re being asked a question, a pause before answering is acceptable. Don’t pause too long because that can give the impression you’re about to lie or make something up, but a short pause to gather your thoughts is a wise move.
Also, if you know you’re about to be interviewed or in a stressful situation, think about what you want to communicate beforehand. Practice talking and verbalizing your key messages and the points you want to make. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to rely on muscle memory and less on remembering exactly what it is you want to say.
Also, stick to the theme or message. If you try to get too creative and start talking about things you know nothing about or have little understanding of, your chances of blundering increase dramatically. If you don’t know the answer to a question or are unsure of the topic of conversation, there’s nothing wrong with simply telling somebody that you don’t know the answer. If it’s something important and needs a response or an answer, tell the person you’ll check on it and get back to them. If you do that though, be sure to get back to the person.
At one point or another, everybody has said something they regretted or didn’t mean to and been embarrassed by it. It happens, but if you stay calm and think before speaking you can avoid these types of embarrassing situations.