I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes tell my own children that they are "behaving inappropriately." But I have learned to stop when I use those words, and to consider whether that's my own personal judgment, or whether others, too, would consider the behavior to be inappropriate. Then I evaluate whether more information is needed so that my children can make more effective choices.
But there are times when I, too, "behave inappropriately." I'm guessing that most of you can identify with that tendency. Some of our responses (things we do and say) are less than socially effective, if not downright disastrous. We misjudge the social context (who's here and what they know, feel, think, or expect), and utilize misguided attempts at being funny, smart, or compassionate--and end up looking anything but! We have figures of speech which describe these social blunders, such as "putting our foot in our mouth," or "getting off on the wrong foot." (If you'd like help deciphering these and other idioms, one good resource is http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/put+foot+in+mouth. Another is the children's book, Super Silly Sayings That Are Over Your Head, by Catherine Snodgrass. It's a delightful book which uses illustrations and explanations to show the intended meaning of idioms after showing their literal interpretation.
OK, so we all occasionally mess up socially. What are we to do about it? I believe we need to go through at least three steps:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE the mess, including how we are feeling about the situation, and how others are feeling.
1. RECOGNIZE our role in the negative outcome of the interaction, whether it's simply an uncomfortable moment, or a complete disaster. Examine how the choice we made, whether it was something we said or did, or something we should have done or said, but didn't, contributed to the current situation.
3. Work to REPAIR the situation. The words, "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said that. What can I do to make it better?" are an important part of repairing a negative situation. A genuine apology will have at least these three components: Saying we're sorry, acknowledging our role in the current situation, and taking part in the necessary repair process. (A great book for teaching this concept to children is Sorry! by Trudy Ludwig).
This three-step process should be followed by new choices that take into account what we've learned, hopefully leading to more socially effective responses.
So, there's hope for all of us when we occasionally speak or act in a socially ineffective way. The important thing is that we keep trying, knowing that those around us occasionally make mistakes, too!