Nooo… Did I say that out loud?
It is the worst possible moment for anyone who lives in the public spotlight, that moment when words escape your mouth in a public setting, or through your fingers on social media that you almost instantly want to recall.
It is the stuff that gives media advisors, public relations specialists and publicists working with politicians, actors, singers, models through to sports stars awake at night.
One can easily envisage the communication team around President Trump awaking in the middle of the night a cold sweat to grasp at their phones to see whom their Commander and Chief has disparaged in his late night tweets.
Whilst Trump does seem immune to the normal rules of the world, even he had to go for the “rollback my comments” strategy a number of times through his election campaign, from his ‘locker room’ comments, to his offensive tweets about women he did not like.
So perhaps ‘partially immune’ would be a better description for ‘The Donald.’
This week, government Minister Michaelia Cash is pondering the ‘rollback’ after she lit a fuse with her public comments, that if pushed further in a Senate Estimates hearing, she would unleash the dirt on the relationship with Shorten and his female staff.
What prompted the good Senator to make such remarks, particularly in light of the oxygen that has been stolen from the government through the Joyce affair, is a question only the Minister can answer.
Most likely she had no concept of the potential damage of her words until the appearance of Labor Senate leader Penny Wong. At which time I am sure that she began to realise that her world was now on fire, and a new distraction for the government had commenced.
Whilst Senator Cash’s comments seemingly offer further proof of how far into the gutter that Australian politics has fallen, she is of course far from the only person to have had words come out that may have been better left unsaid.
Within only the past few days we have Labor Senator Kim Carr comparing young Liberals to the ‘Hitler Youth’ and an Assistant Commissioner of Victoria police resigning after posting offensive messages online under a pseudonym.
Across the last month a broad range of individuals have offered apologies of kind for their words or actions.
From music legends Keith Richards and Quincy Jones; TV personalities Tim Ferguson and Denise Drysdale; Hollywood legend Quentin Tarantino; Comedian Mick Molloy, Author Terry Goodkind; Olympic stars Shaun White and Jan Blokhuijgen; Stage actor Linden Furnell; Australian and British MPs Luke Donellan and Ben Bradley.
So once it has been said publicly or been printed, how do we ‘rollback’ what we say?
Well, there are a number of techniques that can be used in the ‘rollback’ attempt.
The most popular is the “I have been taken out of context” claim, which as Jo Marney and her boyfriend, the now former leader of UKIP discovered, tends to fall well short of the mark in regards to incredibly offensive statements about Meghan Markle.
Another poplar attempt is to say “if I have offended anyone”, although as Kevin Spacey and currently Senator Cash are discovering, such statements do tend to ring hollow.
The reality is this, there is no ‘rolling back’ and the best solution is of course to not make such statements in the first place, or if you mean them, then own them. Provided you have not crossed lines into the extreme or have racist tones, these are survivable events.
If though you cannot ride them through, then the only option is the apology and it needs to be real and authentic, not mealy-mouthed and forced.
Think of it as a Band-Aid that has been on the skin for a while, as soon as you know your words have gotten away from you then rip that Band-Aid clean and apologise from the heart immediately.
Let the world know how much it has hurt you to think that you may hurt someone else. Take ownership, act quickly and you may well find that you walk away with your reputation still intact.