Almost all of us have been in situations when we said or did the wrong thing.  You might feel the response coming on, but by then it's too late.  Your slip up behavior is already a runaway train.  Besides being embarrassed and ashamed, you worry about giving your date the wrong impression or hurting the feelings of your partner.

Even though we all mess up from time to time in our unique ways, these train-wrecks of reactions usually stem from similar reasons.  For starters, a good way to prevent these emotional accidents is to know that the following situations can already put you on that train. 

Top Trigger Incidents

In order to prevent a disaster, it's important to know key triggers for verbal slip-ups.

  1. You're tired. You didn't sleep well last night.
  2. You had a very bad day with the kids.
  3. You had a very bad day at work. 
  4. You had a little Aggravation of Life Day—the car battery died, the shelf in the family room crashed, the washer broke.
  5. You don't feel well.
  6. You—or someone you love—just got a scary medical report.
  7. You've experienced a major setback or loss.  These situations can include job or income loss, disagreements with bosses, colleagues or family members; and anything that disrupts or disappoints you.
  8. You are experiencing a key anniversary such as death of a loved one or the date of a natural disaster that you experienced.

If any of the trigger incidents above describes you, set your goals to be aware of them ahead of time-and to hold back from saying or doing anything.  But what do you do if you've already reacted-and regretted later? 

Here are some clean up techniques to try.

Recovery Tips

  1. Always be aware of your unique triggers.
  2. Rehearse in your mind any of these sentences.  Or, design your own response.  Say them to your partner or date BEFORE you come home, talk or meet.

    1. "I've had a bad day.  Let me do some thinking first."
    2. "I need some down time right now."
    3. "I need your help with something at work."
    4. "Can we  just do something fun?  I need to be cheered up."
    5. "I didn't think this (whatever it is) would get to me.  I don't know what I want to do right now.  I think I need to: (be alone, talk, go for a walk, etc.)"   
  3. Do NOT EVER use the word "but" or dismiss your partner's feelings. Which of these sentences would you rather hear?

    1. "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to hurt or upset you. It's a bad time of year for me." 
    2. "Yeah, yeah, think you had a bad day? The boss added two more assignments as I was going out the door."
    3. "I'm sorry I hurt you.  You didn't deserve that. I need to talk about my brother again."
    4. "...but I didn't sleep last night. And I'm starving, too."
  4. If you are on a date and act like a jerk, consider taking a Self-Control Break and going to the rest room to think.  If you are on the phone, say to the person that you just had a very bad reaction, that you are sorry and need a few minutes to gather your thoughts.  Make sure you call back the person that day.

  5. The tips above are based on the simple—but easily forgotten—principle of Aware and Tell.  The more you can become attuned to your physical, verbal and emotional reactions, the less slip ups you will have.  These embarrassing and hurtful incidents will always happen, but if you set your goals to be aware and then to tell your partner, you will do less harm to yourself and the people you care about.