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What to Say When You’ve Said Something Offensive


We’re answering questions that come our way pretty commonly in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. 

One thing that comes up a lot is “I said something wrong. I said something offensive. Now what?” And that’s a hard one. None of us like to be called on it when we make a mistake. Secondly, a lot of the time, we just don’t know what to do once we find ourselves in that position. 

The answer is pretty simple. You may not like it, but the real answer to this question is if you realize or are made aware that you said something offensive or made a mistake:

  • Take a pause
  • Apologize
  • Correct yourself
  • Move forward

Sounds simple, right? It’s hard to do in practice. And it does take practice to try to respond to moments where you may have slipped up. It takes giving yourself some grace, but also accepting a little bit of humility. We are all human beings, so we’re all going to make mistakes. It comes down to what do we do once we realize that we’ve made that mistake? Are we defensive? Do we push back? Or can we look at these as learning moments in which we can ourselves learn and grow, but also learn from other people?

When you learn you’ve made a mistake, you may not always have that opportunity to learn directly from the person that you’ve made the mistake with. It’s a moment that you can then take as self-reflection and do more work on your own to really understand. To ask yourself, what’s going on? Why did you say what you said or act the way you did? Why is that not the way that you intended to come across?

Apologize, correct yourself, move on. 

Have more questions? Just ask us. We’re answering your DEI questions. No shame, no judgement, no fear. Ask away: [email protected]

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Felicia Jadczak
Felicia Jadczak
Felicia is a Co-Founder of She Geeks Out.