Rick Perry

Managing Mangled Moments

The word “embarrassing” pops up a lot in headlines about this year’s presidential campaign.  There are enough gaffes, awkward moments and misstatements to fill a book on “How not to get elected.” For instance, there was:

 Mitt Romney’s comment that he likes to fire people.

Or when a top Romney advisor accidentally spoke the unintended truth about the campaign changing direction after the primaries, resulting in the now famous Etch-A-Sketch comment. 

Who can forget Texas Governor Rick Perry forgetting the names of the three federal departments he’d eliminate.

And there was President Obama’s statement about the Supreme Court’s limit of authority, a statement that was softly retracted after confusing attempts to clarify.

So, there seems to be plenty of ways candidates, or anyone working in a public environment, can mess up. The question isn’t so much how did the faux pas happen, but how a person can recover, putting the awkward moment in the rearview mirror. 

First, get used to the notion mistakes will happen. It’s a human trait. Next, have a survival plan. Before continuing down the campaign trail, create a protocol — or triage — for assessing how serious the situation is and what remedies are best. And, develop the discipline to carry out the recovery steps quickly. 

The first part of the plan should be realizing what it is a speaker can do in the seconds after a misstep. If we can borrow a page from the world of music, then the advice of Noa Kageyama may apply. He’s a performance psychologist and Juilliard faculty member who has made a study of how musicians may recover from a mistake during a performance, What he says about playing music might be applied to delivering a speech.