The Foot In Mouth Phenomena


While waiting at the airport, a friend called me. She was waiting for her flight to leave. As I was her ride once she got home, she was calling to let me know it had been delayed for the second time.

“So, I saw this Asian cleaning lady, and I thought of you,” she tells me out of the blue.

“Um, thanks?” I responded.

As she continued to tell me about how she struck up a conversation with the woman and how the lady seemed surprised to be receiving a greeting, my mind wandered.

I wondered if my friend realized that it sounded as though she thought all Asian people looked alike, and that maybe they were all in the housekeeping business. If she knew how she sounded, she’d be mortified. She’s a teacher.

As often happens with thoughts, one led to another until I started realizing how often people say things that just come out all wrong.

For example:

My sister, a few years ago, posted that our grandfather had passed away. One of her very best friends responded with…”I’m so sorry! LOL!”. Ouch. When my sis mentioned how inappropriate “laughing out loud” was in reference to a funeral, her very sweet friend turned beet red and said, “I meant Lots Of Love!”. Apparently she wasn’t up on online shorthand.

At an Asian church group function, these Chinese guys were trying to hit on me and my friends. To strike up a conversation, one of them looked at my girlfriend and said, “Are you Philippines?” to which she responded, “No. Are you China?”

Or there was the irate (and racist) customer who was complaining to me, the manager, about “that Oriental girl”. Was he ever surprised when the young lady in question (who had done nothing wrong) advised him, “Sir, Oriental is a rug. I’m Asian.”

And finally, a very competent female manager, calling to tell me she’d elected to promote someone else into her store cited her reasoning for selecting someone other than me was because she didn’t think her store could handle “too man hens in the hen house”. It’s a good thing I knew her well enough to realize she didn’t mean it that way. What she’d really meant to say was that she didn’t think her store could handle two very aggressive personalities in management. She needed someone to be good cop to her bad cop.

People say things all the time that, without a little bit of humor, context or kindness, could do significant damage to a person. Have you ever encountered this phenomena? Care to share?

8 thoughts on “The Foot In Mouth Phenomena

    • Kitt says:

      As humans we are definitely bound to do all manner of stupidity. Mine are usually of the crash and fall in public variety, though I’ve had plenty of opportunity to spit shine my own foot, too. I think, though, that as long as we can find the humor in those moments, we’ll all get through it with minimal damage. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


  1. Michelle Hall says:

    A good teacher at that 😉
    Did you know, when I said, I thought of you- I was referring to how we could relate this situation to writing. I was hurt about the impoliteness and disregard people have when it comes to saying thank you, or simply hello. I ended up writing before I talked with you, but I didn’t share. So sometimes, the foot in the mouth phenomena can simply just be a miscommunication. I only thought of you in the sense of writing. If I would have gotten a hold of my friend Stephy, who writes… I would have responded the same but either way, I can see how that could be misinterpreted sweets. So the ramdom guy asking about my views on abortion, that’s just yet another foot in the mouth situation!


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I was gonna say great, but if you’re ok settling for good, so am I. ;-).
      As for the rest, yes, by the end of our conversation, I realized it was the lost art of simple courtesies that blew your mind. The beginning of the conversation just came out funny!

      Now the random guy who thought appropriate airport conversation included asking a woman he didn’t know her views on abortion? Yeah, that definitely makes the list. I still think you should have asked him when he’s having his vasectomy. One wrong turn deserves another…LOL!


  2. radaronelson says:

    I totally agree, people say things wrong quite often but unfortunately there are those that say the wrong thing and meant it either through naivety or bad up-bringing


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