Last week was a lesson in mindfulness, of being aware that I was not aware, that resulted in a personally embarrassing situation.
I was at a client to facilitate their leadership team meeting. As people came into their small conference room, Sue (not her real name) walked in. I’ve known Sue for a year or so and we’ve met several times. When I looked at her, my mind told me she was pregnant. Well, guess what came out of my mouth? “Sue, you are pregnant,” I said with a joyous tone. Sue was startled, and with her face flushed she replied with sternness, “No, I’m not.”
Oh my, these are life situations that you wish you could take back and do over. Has this ever happened to you?
What did I do?
- First, I was immediately mindful of my inappropriate remark as soon as it came out of my mouth.
- Second, I was very attentive to Sue’s reaction, both her physical and verbal responses.
- Third, I apologized quickly and acknowledged Sue’s offense to my remark.
- Fourth, I made no excuses for what I did. It happened
So, why was this a mindful lesson?
In reflecting back on that moment, I realized how fast my brain categorized what I saw and made a conclusion based on it. I did not pause to check out the appropriateness of my remark nor acknowledge within myself that it’s none of my business. I allowed my thoughts and then emotions to take over without any forethought. I was not present in the moment to consciously be aware of what was happening within me. To pause and be present in the moment are mindful practices I’ve been working on.
Now, here comes the hard part of being mindful – to not be judgmental about my behavior. Apologize to Sue? Absolutely, both verbally and with a letter of atonement. But to allow myself to feel guilty or get so absorbed in wanting to chastise myself is a useless waste of energy. This was a lesson in humility and knowing that I’m not perfect when it comes to engaging in appropriate behavior. It was an awakening of how quickly our brains will do what it knows how best to do – categorize what we see and reach a conclusion without any prompting on our part. It just happens.
If we practice mindfulness, i.e., learn how to pause in the moment before speaking, we can avoid such experiences. It requires attention and intention on our part, something I failed to do. We learn and grow from these life experiences.
When have you experienced a similar situation, i.e., a faux pas that you wish you could take back? Contact me below to help you or your staff use mindful practices. We all need to be more attentive and aware in our working relationships.