Thank you so much for your blog!
This might be banal and is probably a case of Overthinking It. But it is something that I repeatedly seem to worry about recently.
Do you have any tips/guidelines on how to deal with the situation where you have said something that could be taken the wrong way. Where you realize, after the incident, that it might have been received in away you did not mean, and also remembering that the reaction might have been a bit off. Yet, bringing it up and apologizing might risk making something big and weird out of something that was small to begin with.
Maybe look at it this way: What’s the worst thing that could happen if you apologize for something you said after the fact? For example: “That thing I said about [topic] the other day isn’t sitting right with me, and I’m sorry – I meant it as a joke but I realize it wasn’t funny.”
In many cases the other person might say: “What? I’ve forgotten that already,” or “Don’t worry about it.”
In other cases they might really appreciate the apology and the chance to clarify.
In some cases the person may not really like you all that much in the first place. If that’s the case, an apology probably can’t make it worse than it already is.
In almost no cases I can think of would someone say “Ugh, what’s wrong with you, why would you bring that up?” or like, punish you for speaking up. I mean, it’s certainly possible someone would say that, but it would say more about them than it does about you. We all misread the room sometimes, we all say stuff out loud that sounded much better in our heads. Who among us has not been awkward?
You’ve heard the expression: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”, yes? If you’re going to go back and apologize or clarify something you said earlier, I think the key is to be brief and specific, make it a real apology (“I’m sorry about what I said” NOT “I’m sorry you took that thing I said the wrong way“), let the other person say whatever they are going to say, and then (the hard part): LET IT DROP. Unless the other person pursues a deeper discussion, say your apology and then be mostly quiet. No more explaining, no arguing, no justifying, no self-flagellation (“I’m sorry it’s just that I’m such a terrible and awkward person, how can you even stand to be around me” = NOPE!), no making the person take care of your feelings. You may have been replaying the incident over and over in your mind for days, but the other person almost certainly has not doing that, and while they may appreciate an apology or a chance to clear up an awkward moment, they probably don’t want an invitation to your shame spiral.
Best wishes yourself!