Are you willing to admit you’re embarrassed?

Andrea Howe
Category : Weekly tips July 28, 2014

This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

If you’ve ever used a web browser user, you’ve probably been faced from time to time with an unexpected crash, causing all your open tabs to close. If you’ve ever experienced this with Mozilla Firefox, you’ve probably had to smile at the power of their very disarming error message, which displays on the screen in big, bold letters: “Well, this is embarrassing.”


This story reflects one of the key points in the Get Real manifesto: Mistakes are inevitable; how you handle them reveals your true character.

Mozilla chose to handle their mistake in a trust-building way by using a caveat to openly acknowledge the discomfort (“Well, this is embarrassing”). Other caveat examples include:

  • “There’s really no easy way to say this.”
  • “You’re probably not going to like what I have to say.”
  • “This is awkward.”

Caveats—spoken genuinely and without a “but” or “however” to follow—are conversational jewels. They make it easier for both giver and the receiver to initiate a conversation about a difficult topic.

Bonus: Making it Real

This week, practice using caveats. How?

Think about a challenging business relationship where topics are being avoided or negative patterns aren’t being called out. What isn’t being said that needs to be said? How might you use a caveat to get the conversation going?

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Andrea Howe

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).

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