My most embarrassing moment: Excuse me, you are sitting at MY table

My most embarrassing moment in life was while visiting London, many years ago. This was my first international meeting and, as you can image, I was pretty nervous but ready to make a good impression. I had arrived the night before, to get a good night sleep, and while getting ready for breakfast it happened: I made a complete fool out of myself.

After selecting a good spot in the hotel breakfast room, I left a newspaper on the table and got up walking to the buffet. When my plate was full I walked back to my table and noticed there was a lady sitting at MY table. I got angry, didn’t hesitate, approached her and said to her:

“Excuse me, you are sitting at MY table”.

Then came her polite response, “No, It can’t be, this is my table. You must be wrong”. I was ready to start an argument, but before I could give a response my eyes caught the newspaper …………. waiting for me at the table to the left of us. This was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

I was wrong, she was right. All the way I assumed the fault was with her and not mine. I didn’t check, and the thought to do so didn’t enter my mind either. For the most obvious reason why she was sitting at my table was: because it was not my table!

I remember making an apology, very embarrassed, with a red face, ready to leave the breakfast room as fast as possible and hoping to see this lady never again.

I learned two valuable lessons out of this incident, which I now made part of the way I communicate with people:

  • Never assume, but check for facts as you could be wrong. This is especially true if the assumption or inference you are making is accompanied with a strong negative emotion. A negative emotion can act as a red flag that there is something wrong with your interpretation of a given situation.
  • Try to look at situations from the other’s point of view as well. This could be an opportunity to learn something new or look at things from a perspective unknown before. In my case, if I had examined the reason why this lady was sitting at my table, I would have found there was no reason for her to do so as there where plenty of tables available. So something else must be wrong with my perspective on the situation.

This incident, my most embarrassing moment, was a very valuable lesson for me. Never assume anything, but check for facts as you could be wrong too.

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