An Important Take-Away From Ariana Grande’s Social Faux-Pas

It’s easy to look at Ariana Grande as a star who’s got it all. After all, the girl has two successful Nickelodeon shows under her belt, has been nominated for tons of major music awards, and is featured in countless magazines. But after a recent incident, where the star was spotted licking display doughnuts (gross!), and overheard saying she hates American’s. Talk about a major social faux-pas! The attention she’s been receiving hasn’t been the good kind. Across the internet, people have been siding against Ariana, with some twitter users announcing decisions to swear off their Arianator fandom. The backlash over the last few weeks has been so major that Ariana has had to issue a public apology.

While it seems like her doughnut-licking, American-bashing, social mistake would be enough to permanently damage her reputation-it probably won’t be.

With the way things go in Hollywood, it’s likely that all the Ariana hate will blow over soon, but for now, the situation has us thinking about social mistakes. Everyone makes them from time to time, and (as this incident shows us), even the coolest kids around are no exception. But what’s the difference between a little every-day mistake, and a major social faux-pas with consequences? How can you learn to shrug off life’s little awkward moments, but avoid getting caught up in the kind of incident that effects your reputation or scares friends away?

First, it’s key to understand the difference. A little mistake might make you feel a bit awkward or embarrassed in the moment, but it isn’t necessarily something to stress over. This kind of slip-up might interrupt the flow of a social exchange, but it won’t hurt anyone, and it probably won’t change the way your friends view you. This could be anything from tripping in the hallway, to calling someone by the wrong name, to telling a joke that falls flat. While no one enjoys making a little mistake, there’s no sense in getting upset if you do, because you’re probably way more aware of it than anyone else is. A major mistake is one that has a big impact on the people around you, leaving them feeling offended, hurt, and/or angry. This could be something like getting caught spreading rumors, spilling a secret you had promised to keep, or losing your temper with a classmate. You definitely want to avoid getting caught up in that kind of drama, because it has the potential to seriously damage your social life.

Here are some tips for doing that:
1. Be aware of your surroundings. In Ariana’s apology, she explained that her comments were not meant for the public, but for the friend she was with at the time. She hadn’t expected them to be overheard. While occasional slip-ups happen, it’s a good idea to take note of the people around you before you speak up about something that could be hurtful in the wrong context. It doesn’t matter who your comments were meant for. If you’re in a public place, you can be overheard, so keep it respectful. Don’t spread gossip or vent your frustrations about a friend if there’s a chance it will be overheard and reported back to them. Don’t reveal secrets or personal information in places like the cafeteria or bus, where anyone can eavesdrop. While sharing personal info or even venting with a trusted friend in a safe place is okay, you should always be sure you have actual privacy before starting a private conversation.

2. Put Yourself in the Shoes of an Observer. Before you act, think about how it would look to someone who isn’t caught up in the moment with you. Doing something like licking a display doughnut might seem funny when you’re joking around with your friends, but for someone who was planning on ordering a doughnut, it would probably be a big turnoff. If you were an outsider looking in on your group of friends, how would you feel about their behavior? Would you find it funny? Rude? Insensitive? Mean? It’s important to know when something you see as a harmless joke could be taken very differently by someone else. So remember to think before you act.

3. If you don’t have anything nice to say…We know it’s cliche at this point. How many times have you heard “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”? Probably a lot, but there’s a good reason for that. Even when you’re trying to impress your friends, it’s never a good idea to say mean or hurtful things. The fact is, people will usually forgive social mistakes that don’t have a hurtful intent behind them. It’s a lot harder to justify mean or rude comments and behaviors, and people may use that as a reason not to be your friend. When in doubt, just be nice. And if you do slip-up, follow Ariana’s example and be willing to apologize.

This doesn’t mean you should live in fear of making a social mistake you can’t come back from. All we’re saying is that it’s always smart to take your surroundings into consideration, and think about the way other people will feel toward your words or actions. Just taking a little extra time to be courteous can make a big difference in how people view you, and can drastically minimize your chances of making a major faux pas!

Posted in


Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More