This week on Ask a Therapist: Three steps to surviving the aftermath of the embarrassing staff Christmas party.
Question: “We had our work Christmas party last weekend, and I think I’m probably the first person in 2015 to make a complete ass out of myself at their office Christmas party. I drank too much, said some really stupid stuff and did some stupid stuff…. What should I do? I’ve been apologizing profusely over and over, but I feel like that’s just making it worse. Signed: Embarrassed & Hungover”
Dear E & H;
Many thanks for your great question. You can rest assured that you certainly are not the first person to over-indulge at a staff Christmas party and regret it.
Now, since you mentioned that you’ve been apologizing and trying to figure out how to repair the situation, I’m going to assume that you didn’t lose your job over this.
I suggest that you quickly change how you’re responding to the aftermath, by using the following steps:
1> Own It
It sounds like you may already be doing this. But just to be clear, simply own up to what you did. Be honest without excuses, and don’t exaggerate. As soon as you layer on the excuses or exaggerations you instantly lose credibility; and to be honest no one really cares if you drank too much because you’ve been stressed out, or that you didn’t eat enough at supper so you got hammered really fast. Excuses are not going to trump giving the boss fashion or dating advice, or making out with the new intern, or showing off your ninja skills against the coat rack. Instead, be honest and blunt “I drank far more than I should have and I am embarrassed by my behaviour”. Done.
2> Don’t Be a Drama-Llama
Stop apologizing all over the place, because you’re absolutely right – it is making things worse. If you don’t want your intoxicated behaviour to be a big deal, don’t make it a big deal. You’ve already done step #1, so now apologize ONCE and then STOP. Don’t ask for anyone’s opinions or if they remember what you did, and don’t keep bringing it up. Just because it’s dominating your thoughts right now, doesn’t mean it’s dominating the thoughts of those around you… at least not until you call attention to it… again! Recognize that “apologizing profusely over and over”, and talking about it in general, is coming from your own feelings of anxiety and regret; you’re trying to get rid of those uncomfortable feelings in a way that just keeps them going. Notice the uncomfortable feelings that you have about what happened, remind yourself that you’ve already completed step #1, and ride out those feelings while keeping your mouth closed.
3> It’s All Just a Cup of Coffee
Now what if it’s other people who keep bringing it up? You may feel like you need to explain yourself (now if it’s your boss asking for an explanation, refer to steps #1 and #2), or make excuses, or defend yourself. My advice is that no matter how you may feel in the moment; respond to the chit-chat and commotion as if it’s all just a cup of coffee. No big deal, “yes it was a mistake, yes I have apologized, and now when is that sales report due?” Responding to others from your emotions is just going to fan the flames and keep the scandal going. If you stop pouring emotional gasoline on the gossip fire, eventually it will burn out.
It probably doesn’t feel like it right now, but everything will be okay. At some point in time in the not so distant future this will be little more than a fuzzy, blurry, memory – how quickly that time comes depends on you.
But if you notice that this sort of thing keeps happening and you’re getting sick of it – then it might be time to chat. Give us a call, we can help.
Ask a therapist at Summit Counselling Group. Each week we randomly select one of your questions and answer it on our blog. To submit your anonymous question, just visit our blog page on our website (the message box is on the right hand side). https://summitcounselling.ca/blog/
Summit Counselling Group is made up of eight, professional, and compassionate Registered Clinical Counsellors; working with individuals, couples, adults, children, adolescents, and families at our executive West Broadway office in beautiful Vancouver, B.C.