Source: wikiHow (no byline)
Once a you send a Facebook message, there’s no way “unsend” or “recall” the message. You can, however, take steps to improve the situation. Before you send another message, learn how to assess the damage, craft an apology, and handle the aftermath.
Evaluating the Situation
- Define the problem (realistically). Before doing damage control, take a few minutes to look at the facts of the situation. A reactionary response could make the situation worse. Answer these questions so you know you’re getting a clear picture of the situation:
- Is what I sent to this person going to hurt their feelings?
- If this person reads this message with no other communication from me, will our relationship be damaged?
- What is my biggest fear about the outcome of this situation? What’s the worst that will happen if that fear comes true?
- Consider the way your response could affect the problem. You feeling embarrassed is one thing, but hurting or embarrassing someone else is more. Anything you say or do now has the potential to make the situation better or worse.
- If you sent private or personal information about someone else to the wrong person, a serious response is in order.
- If you sent an embarrassing message about yourself, it may help to send a quick “Oops, sorry!” with a touch of humor to avoid straining the relationship.
- Imagine how the recipient might feel about receiving the message. While you may be horrified, the recipient may giggle and brush it off as a silly mistake. Or, what you may interpret as a silly mistake may embarrass or disgust the recipient. Keep these thoughts in mind for when you draft a response:
- Imagine you sent a message meant for your romantic partner to your mother. She’s probably feeling just as upset about reading it as you are about sending it.
- If you asked someone on a date but sent the message to the wrong person, it’s likely that the recipient is not feeling embarrassed at all. In most cases, they’ll be flattered.
- Be proactive about responding. Instead of waiting for others to notice and respond to your mistake, take action before the situation gets further out of your control. Accepting responsibility for the message will show the recipient you are serious about making amends.
Crafting a Response
- Send a quick apology if it was a harmless mistake. If you sent a random, unoffensive message to the wrong person, apologize for the inconvenience to them and move on.You might feel a little embarrassed by your mistake, but it’s not the worst that could happen.
- Using humor in your response can help keep the mood light and decrease future strain on your relationship.
- Write a rough draft of your response. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen (or a blank document on your computer) to compose your response. This will help you avoid sending another message you’ll regret.
- When you’re done drafting your response, consider how you’d like to deliver it. In most cases, sending it through Facebook is fine, but sometimes a phone call is more appropriate.
- Be honest when drafting your response. Getting caught in a lie could destroy your credibility, relationships, or reputation.
- Start by restating the problem (with no excuses). If the message was offensive, contained private information about someone else, or included inappropriate content, your response should begin with a formal apology. You should not blame the message on anyone else, not even Facebook. By admitting what you’ve done, you show that you accept responsibility for the mistake. Some examples:
- “I sent you a photo that was meant for someone else.”
- “I accidentally forwarded a message that was meant for someone else.”
- “The message I just sent contains private information about someone else.”
- Express remorse by saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” No matter the severity of the situation, it’s important that your expression of remorse sound sincere. Here are some examples:
- “I am so sorry that you had to see that message.“
- “I apologize for my careless error.”
- “I am really sorry. I feel so ashamed by what I’ve done.”
- Make amends. This part of the message will show the recipient that you want to make the situation right.
- A good way to make amends is to say something like, “If there’s anything I can do to make it up to you, please let me know.”
- If there’s an action you could take to ease the situation for everyone involved, offer to take that action and make sure you follow through.
- When making amends, you may feel tempted to offer something you can’t fulfill. Try to resist that temptation—sometimes feeling guilty can tempt us into giving more than what is appropriate, necessary, or even possible.
- Promise that this will never happen again. Now that you’ve expressed remorse, taken responsibility, and offered to make amends, you’ll need to rebuild trust. Assure this person that you will be more careful in the future. Some examples:
- “Now that I’ve made this mistake, I’ll pay closer attention to what I send on Facebook.”
- “I have learned that not paying attention to what I’m doing can be damaging. I’ll keep that in mind, going forward.”
- Get your draft ready to send. Now it’s time to re-read your message and do some final edits before sending. Besides fixing grammar and spelling issues, look for the following missteps:
- Make sure you’re not blaming Facebook. Remove lines like “I don’t know why Facebook did this” or “Facebook is always messing up on me.”
- Don’t blame other people. Remove stuff like “This wouldn’t have happened if XXX didn’t send this as a group message,” or “Next time, you shouldn’t forward me anything.”
- Send your message. You’ve crafted an apology, and now it’s time to send it off.
Handling the Aftermath
- Forgive yourself. Sending the message was an honest mistake. Mistakes happen! Sending a Facebook message to the wrong person may be embarrassing, but it won’t kill them (or you).
- Take care of your physical needs. Embarrassment and anxiety manifest in many physical ways. You may feel lightheaded, weak, have a stomach cramp, or a headache.Take deep breaths, do some stretching, and make sure you stay hydrated. As time passes, these symptoms will fade, along with your embarrassment.
- Leave a group conversation or thread. If the issue is the result of a group message gone awry, staying a member of the group may only make the situation worse. If a conversation gets heated or inappropriate, it’s best to leave it before sending a message you might later regret.
- Archive messages you don’t want to see. Having to look at something hurtful over and over again isn’t good for anyone. If you wince in pain every time you see the message in your inbox, you can archive the message. This won’t delete it, but it’ll file it away so it’s no longer in your face. You’ll be able to find it at any time by searching for the recipient’s name.
- Validate the recipient’s feelings.If the person to whom you wrongfully sent a message responds expressing sadness, embarrassment, or anger, respond with a brief message that makes them feel seen, heard, and understood. Some examples:
- If the person responding says they are furious, say, “I hear that you are angry, and I definitely understand why.”
- If a person says they are embarrassed, say, “I can understand why you would feel embarrassed. I would also feel embarrassed if someone did to me what I did to you.”
- If they say they are devastated, say, “I understand and accept that my actions have been upsetting to you. That’s totally valid.”
- Know your limits.Receiving an angry response from someone you upset won’t feel good, but it’s a part of their process. However, abusive language and threats of violence are never okay, even when you’ve upset someone. Report any hate speech or threats of violence to Facebook.