Wishing You’d Had The Perfect Response?

… you can often go back later and change what you said.

Do you know what I refer to? Some exchange in the workplace, it all happens very quickly, and later you find yourself wishing you’d said something else, or something different? You don’t like your answer, but the moment has passed.

If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, then you’re very lucky. You have great instinct. Enjoy it.

If you do, then consider this advice: a lot of times you can go back later and reopen that conversation. You can revise what you said. You do get a second chance. No, not always; and you can’t unsay anything anymore than you can unring a bell.

I don’t know why it is, but I’m sure a lot of us think conversations, once had, are locked up and closed. Not always. Try it some time. Go back later and revisit that same issue, but with a changed mind. Try this:

“You know, I’ve been thinking about what we said the other day, about _____, and I think we missed something.”

Or maybe it’s as simple as saying “I think I got it wrong” or “I think we both missed something.”

We live in a very fast world. It’s hard to get everything right the first time through. Some people are better at the initial go-around, and some people take more time to digest.

So do yourself a favor. If you with you’d handled it differently, don’t give it up entirely. Reopen it and add some more conversation to it.


  • nancy (aka moneycoach) says:

    You’d think that would occur to all of us – but it doesn’t. And when I think of the many times I’ve beaten myself up, or even felt embarrassed about what I said, I wish it had always occurred to me that I could revisit the conversation. Even if going back to the conversation doesn’t yield the results we’re looking for, I think it’s really healthy to have given ourselves permission to be imperfect, and to give ourselves (even if the other person doesn’t) a second chance.

  • Jim Whisnant says:

    Good post, but I think I agree with Randy Wilhelm’s comment. Sometimes its best just to “let it be”, not to make a big deal over a difference of opinion – may look as if you always trying to “win”. What’s the old saying: “Convince someone against their will – un-convinced still”. I always found a simple “You may be right” difused the conflict and actually opened the door for open dialog -especially when the other guy wanted to argue and had the IQ of a large sack of rocks.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Jim, and Randy too, I agree completely that often it’s better to just let it be. This post was about those rare (I hope) times when something important just doesn’t sit well. I’m hoping to help with a reminder that getting back to it is okay in those special case moments.

  • Chris Melton says:

    Excellent article….just look for the right opportunity.

  • Bill Lynch says:

    Valuable advice. As a psychiatrist, believe me, I use this all the time. I have so many opportunities to mis-speak and have developed a readiness to practice just what you preach. I enjoy and get a lot from your writing. Thanks so much.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Bill, Draper, MSL, Randy, and Jake … Upon reflection, thanks, all of you, for these additions. I can’t say I don’t worry about it when I get off on some of these perhaps-a-bit-too-personal pieces, so comments like these are really appreciated.

  • Draper Pryce says:

    Good thought and thanks for putting it out there. I do this all the time. Does it work? Not sure. Satisfies me, anyway, and that’s what matters because second-guessing yourself is a massive energy-suck. And it’s short distance from there to beating yourself up, which is totally self-defeating.

  • MSL says:

    A very simple phrase to use to get back into a conversation and attempt to take control: Upon reflection…

  • Randy Wilhelm says:

    Good post, Tim. I think that if we can separate the need to revisit something to clarify our message and to maintain/grow level of communication with our peers, that is good. But to revisit something because we simply feel remorse or regret may be foolish. How would we know which it is? Maybe if the need to revisit a comment feels rooted in emotion, it may be presented from a position of regret. In that case, ask for forgiveness and move on. Yet if it is factual in nature, it is worth a clarifying discussion.

  • Jake P says:

    The French have an expression for that feeling: l’esprit de l’escalier, literally “wit of the staircase.” Thanks for the ideas on why and how to reopen the conversation — if it’s important enough, it’s worth a try.

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