Sometimes we say things we can’t take back. I’ll admit, I’ve said some not-so-nice things to my big sister, Jill, that I’d like to unsay. (According to my mom, it still counts if Jill said something mean to me first.)
Other times, we say things by accident that we wish we hadn’t. Like when you say something that wasn’t meant to be hurtful, but it still ends up upsetting a person.
Which brings me to today’s big lesson: think before you speak. Even if it’s not intended, you can hurt people’s feelings when you aren’t careful about what you say. Or how you say it.
Here’s my story of how I committed the ultimate party foul…
My friend, S, was having a birthday party. S invited a whole bunch of friends—I think about fifteen people—to a dinner. But, I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to exactly who S had invited.
One afternoon, I was talking to my friend, M. M was friendly with S. Pretty good friends, I thought. Since I was excited about S’s party, I asked M, “Do you want to chip in for S’s birthday present with me?” M looked surprised.
“What do you mean chip in?” M said. Maybe M had forgotten that S’s birthday was coming up?
“Well, she’s having her party next week, so I just figured—”
“S is having a party next week?” M looked really surprised.
“Yeah, the dinner at DeeDee’s pizza…” As M continued to stare at me, I realized I had made a mistake. A huge mistake. Unfortunately, I realized my party foul too late.
S didn’t invite M to her party! And then I went and blabbed to M about the party.
This was one of the worst party fouls a person could commit—telling someone information that they didn’t need to—or weren’t supposed to—know. In this case, it was spilling the beans on a party M wasn’t invited to.
As far as mistakes go, this was a big one. It’s not like I could just say “just kidding,” and M would forget all about it. In fact, what happened was quite the opposite.
We all make miskates
“Who else is going to S’s party?” M asked. I said I’d go back and look at the invitation more closely. M’s name was definitely not on it.
I felt terrible. Darn my party foul!
“Umm, well…” How could I undo the mess I just made? The only thing I could think to do was apologize. “I’m really sorry, M. I thought you were invited to the party. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”
“But how could S not invite me? M was really upset. “Do you think S forgot to invite me?”
Sadly, S wasn’t the kind of person who forgot things.
I didn’t want to lie to M and say “maybe.” So I went with a response that could maybe undo my party foul. Or at least lessen it.
“S probably wanted to keep the number of people small. I’m sure she would’ve invited you if it were a big party.” I thought that was a good answer that tried to spare M’s feelings. (And maybe make my party foul not as bad as it already was?)
“Noodle, fifteen people is not that small of a party.” After a moment, M added, “I thought S and I were pretty good friends. I guess I was wrong.” I didn’t know how to respond to M’s comment. Yet, my mouth still started moving anyway:
“Well, there are any number of reasons for why S made the guest list that she did. But I know S wouldn’t try to be hurtful to you on purpose. She’s not that kind of person.” There wasn’t much more I could say that wouldn’t make the situation even worse.
Just in case there was something else I should say or do, I called my pal, E.
Tough (bad) luck
E was a close friend of both M and S’s. (And yes, before calling, I double-checked that E had been invited to S’s party. I didn’t need to repeat my party foul!)
After I explained to E what I had done, she confirmed that I had, indeed, made a foolish mistake. I asked E what else I could do undo my party foul.
“Should we call S and tell her that M’s feelings were hurt for not being invited?” E immediately said “no.”
“But shouldn’t S know that she hurt M’s feelings?” E told me that was a bad idea.
“M might not have found out about the party if you hadn’t said anything, Noodle.”
“That’s true, but someone else might have mentioned S’s party to M at some point. You know how people talk.” I sure wish I hadn’t been the one to accidentally tell M.
“Ok, so let’s play out what could happen if we talked to S,” she said. “Let’s say we tell S that M is upset about not being invited. S might feel like she then had to invite M. It’s still S’s party. She should be able to choose who she wants to invite,” E said. “Plus, let’s imagine if S were to invite M because she felt guilty. Would M even want to go to the party knowing she wasn’t originally invited?”
E’s reasoning kind of made sense.
“So, what do we do? Should we tell S after the party that M’s feelings were hurt?””
“Noodle, I think we just do nothing. It’s a no-win situation. Oh, and next time there’s a party, you ought to be more careful about who you talk to about it.”
Sadly, E was right about everything she said.
Finding the silver lining
A few days after S’s party, M called me, “just to check in.”
“You know, Noodle, I was kind of bummed out about the party. But, in a way, it’s better that I found out. Now I know that S isn’t as good a friend as I thought she was.”
“But you are still friends with S, right?”
“Yes, we’re still friends. I like S, but I guess she and I grew apart. People don’t always stay close friends forever, you know.”
“I suppose you’re right.” I thought about how some of my friendships had shifted and changed over the years. Whether it’s having different schedules, different interests, or a million other possibilities, it’s natural that sometimes people drift apart. “M, I’m still sorry for opening up my big mouth.”
“Honestly, Noodle, it’s not the end of the world that I wasn’t invited to S’s party. It’s just one night. I actually visited one of my camp friends and we had a blast. But knowing what I know, I’d rather focus my time on the people who would invite me if they had a party. Life goes on, and so will I.”
I’m not going to lie. I still felt awful about how I didn’t think before I spoke to M about S’s party. I am 150% going to be more careful about making sure I don’t accidentally make someone feel excluded in the future.
But the way M handled my party foul taught me a second important lesson: we shouldn’t expect to be invited to every party or event. When activities are planned, sometimes the organizers have to make difficult choices about who to include.
And if you should ever feel left out of something, remind yourself that it might not be personal. But no matter what the reason, you can always try and make your own fun elsewhere.
Until next time, be your best you!
Have you ever been in a situation where you wish you could undo words that were said? Please share your stories with me in the comments section.