Recently I was around a couple co-workers and made a joke. They took it as a joke, but took it as it having a sexual angle which I didn't mean at all. In fact, in my mind it was a huge stretch to take the joke sexually. The worst part is that this joke referred to my co-workers daughter, which was the topic of conversation at the time. Thankfully, he just laughed (a real laugh, not nervous laughter) and said "I didn't mean for it to go there". Then I laughed a little back and said "no you took it wrong. I didn't mean it like that". However, they both kept laughing and acting as if it was a sexual joke. I almost wish he would have gotten mad instead though so that I could have gotten serious to explain the joke.

Would it most likely be better to ignore this or confront my co-worker to explain after the fact?

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    What was the joke?
    – user113268
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 3:18

2 Answers 2


You're overthinking this. You made a minor joke that was misinterpreted and you already explained that isn't what you meant. Moreover, no one took offense. They thought it was funny. There is nothing more to explain or apologize for. Drop it and move on.

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    OP is very lucky. They should no longer draw attention to the joke and hope it is buried in history. One lesson learnt: never joke about people present or acquainted to present people, no matter how harmless. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 12:18

Let it be. Your coworker has understood that whatever it was taken to mean, was not what you meant. Whether he thought it was genuinely funny or whether he was just giving you a gracious 'out' does not matter. Either way, he won't hold it against you.

This may be the type of situation where trying to justify or explain your intent and behavior requires everybody involved to relive their experience of the situation. You'd risk reinforcing the memory or adding a negative connotation to the event.

I always frame this kind of thing in the context of human social evolution. (Conceptually: Good social relationships provide a support network and options for partner choice that result in better offspring with a higher chance of survival.) Its unlikely to be scientifically sound, but it helps me.

From that perspective, the fact that you feel a little silly about the exchange could be a useful survival mechanic: If it prevents a re-occurrence, you'll be more successful. Similarly, if your colleague was giving you a good 'out' by interpreting it as an off-color joke, that helps their chances of success. They didn't burn a potentially useful relationship over nothing. We do a lot of things that don't make sense, but do make it easier to live together with other imperfect beings.

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