You are having lunch or dinner with colleagues and maybe with your boss as well. You are using your japanese chopsticks, and when you are ready to eat your sashimi bite, it slips from the chopsticks, lands into your small dish of soy sauce and creates a splashing sensation where soy sauce is everywhere to find except inside the small sauce dish. Your clothes are stained, and hopefully your white blouse is the only one affected. This was the scenario given in the post.
So, what do you do?
There are a few important things to KNOW, no matter how bad the situation seems to be:
- While you are now the center of all attention, you don't want to further nurture this.
- This means, take care of the situation fast and be calm about it at all times.
- While you are uncomfortable, others may be too. You don't want to spread it further either. So, don't excuse yourself 10 times or tell the story over and over again once you're back at the office.
- Try to involve the least amount of people possible. You and the waiter will suffice.
- It is NOT the end of the world. It can happen to anyone. Calm down. You will survive.
You may want to use your napkin to help clean as much as possible, at the same time, signaling to the waiter to come. Ask the waiter for a new napkin, and expect the waiter to clean up your area (wipe it, replace plates, bowls etc). There is no need to announce "Oh, my goodness, I'm so clumsy! I'm sorry, everybody! Oh, my! Did I get it on you too? This is horrible!!". There is no need to say any of that. Excuse yourself from the table once and clean up a bit more in the restroom (make it quick). Come back to your clean seat, put on your jacket if you have one (by the way, your jacket should be on regardless), and continue with lunch/dinner as if nothing happened. There is no need to dwell on it and comment on what a horrific spilling you created. For the others accompanying you, nobody has to ask "Are you ok?" or "Did you get it all off?". The best way is to forget about it and keep on with lunch/dinner.
For the future, analyze the situation before you are even part of it:
- Order "easy food" when eating out with colleagues and managers, especially if you are not 100% familiar with the food and/or utensils.
- Dress for the occasion so that you are prepared. Avoid wearing light colors that can easily show stains or dirt.
- If you have a history of "spilling", be prepared and, yes, have a perfectly ironed shirt/blouse or another jacket at work or in your car.
- If it happens to a colleague, don't comment on it or ask questions like "Can I help?" and "Oh, here, take my napkin too!" (big no-no!). The person wants everybody to forget about it as soon as possible!