Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.


I don’t like to talk about my Junior Miss “oops”, but thanks to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “oops” moments are in the news.

It was painful to watch as Gov. Perry struggled to finish his thoughts during a recent debate. All he could get out of his mouth was an embarrassed and apologetic, “Oops!”. His “oops” resonated with millions. We’ve all had our brains shut down when we need them most. Still if you look closely, there are lessons to be learned from brain freezes.

Gov. Perry had his “oops” moment on national television before an audience of millions. I had mine on a bare stage before an audience of hundreds.

I was a high school senior when Mom drafted me into our local Junior Miss pageant. She did so without prior consent or warning. I was mortified. Figuring that her action was payback for what Mom had to go through giving birth to me, I went along with it. Grudgingly.

Not a pageant veteran and not about to become one, I didn’t practice my piano solo for the talent competition.

After all, I knew the song I was going to play. Sort of.

Center stage at piano keyboard and mid-way through the playing, I suddenly realized that my brain had deserted me.

I had no idea what I was playing or where the song went next. My brain was totally, utterly blank. There I sat, two handfuls of fingers poised over the keyboard and not a single finger knowing what to do next.

An empathic stranger was waiting in the wings with open arms. Although well-wishers praised my performance, both she and I knew the truth. My brain had betrayed me.

Fortunately my feet were still working. I used them to stand and walk briskly off the stage. The audience applauded generously. They thought I was finished. I was, just a lot sooner than I planned.

Our lives are filled with “oops” moments. In business, those moments can be turned into opportunities. They can connect us with others on personal levels. Sharing “oops” experiences allows others see us as fallible individuals trying to do the best we can in circumstances that sometimes spin out of our control. You’re not the only one to experience mind malfunctions. So if you mess up, ‘fess up.

Few are interested in excuses. None like the blame game. “Oops” and vowing to do better can defuse arguments before they escalate. “Oops”, backed by apologies and remedies, strengthens relationships. “Oops” confirms that businesses are human, that mistakes are made, and that we’re all in this together.

Marketing, advertising, public relations and special promotions are important to business. So is the human touch. It defines us from our competition. Covering mistakes, arguing fine points with customers, and blaming don’t build trust or loyalty. Dogmatic defenses or denials lead ultimately to frustrations and lost customers. A simple “oops” confirms that you’re listening and that you care. A sincere “oops”, reinforced by what you’re going to do about it, forges positive human connections.

During the Thanksgiving season, we give thanks for the human connections we have made and are making, for the human connections that enrich our lives and keep our businesses in business. I give thanks for the human connection stemming from my Junior Miss “oops”.

I didn’t win the tiara. But I did get a top hat with sequins and a quick exit, stage left.

More importantly, I got a hug from a stranger who became my very special friend.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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