A mistake that most people don’t know until it’s too late.

See that picture below? That’s quicksand. Do you think knowing how to escape it isn’t relevant? Well, your mind is about to change because quicksand is everywhere.

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I had a good friend, Joe, who got stuck in quicksand. It was only a few months ago. He was walking through the thick underbrush of rural Australia down a path he’s always taken. Joe took a wrong step and found himself sinking a little. He panicked and doubled down on his first misstep, pushing harder into the soggy sand.

Aware of what had just happened, Joe realised his first reaction had only plunged him deeper into the sand. But it was too late; he committed to pushing his way out.

The sand met every push with an even greater pull. He was sinking, the sand nearing his chest. Still, he thrashed harder. Somewhere in the panic, there was a voice of sense. He knew that pushing wasn’t working, but he couldn’t bring himself to stop. Like a ship avoiding a collision, the later the wheel is turned, the harder that turn becomes.

Desperate, he thrashed harder. The sand began filling his mouth. Pushing was all he had left until it wasn’t. A final pull of the sand ate him up.

Escaping Quicksand

What if I told you Joe wasn’t walking in nature but through a conversation? As for the quicksand he was stuck in…

“You’re looking healthy. I love your curves, Anna.”

“Umm, what do you mean?” The woman replied with a slight glare.

“Ohh, just that a little extra bodyweight looks good on you, much healthier than all those skinny girls,” Joe added as he could feel the sand rising.

“You mean I’m fat?” She snarled.

“No, well, I like a curvier woman. It’s more attractive. A little extra weight is good. Me and all my friends think so,” he meekly replied.

By this time, you can imagine the sand was nearing his neck.


Life is full of quicksand, and for some, a little more than others, but we all face it at some point. So how do you get out of quicksand?

Act, don’t react.

Our first action is a reaction. Without thinking, we reinforce our original stance. When Joe found himself stuck, he pushed and struggled before knowing what had happened, only sinking him further.

If Joe had stopped, taken a breath and assessed the situation before reacting, he would be out. He would have realised that his compliment was, in fact, backhanded and offensive.

I’m sorry, Anna. That came out wrong and didn’t sound at all what I meant. I have just noticed over the last few weeks that you’ve been looking great, and I wanted to let you know. 

But what if you can’t silver tongue your way out of causing offence?

Just say sorry.

That’s it. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t persuaded by a sincere apology. What if you’ve already begun pushing and thrashing, and the sand is rising? Exactly the same. Stop moving, and calmly exit the sand with an apology or acknowledgement of your mistake.

Remember, It’s never too late until it really is too late, which is always later than we believe.

Published in Psychology, Relationships, Science, Self Improvement, Stories
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