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Mar 12, 2008

How to Bounce Back From Embarassment

A sense of humor and perspective can help you maintain your dignity—even in the most humiliating circumstances.

You mistakenly sent a scandalous email about your love life to your entire company. Your mother-in-law accidentally walked in on you in the bathroom. You received an award, then tripped and fell on your way to the podium.

Some embarrassing scenarios are unavoidable, while others can be prevented. Either way, though, you need to save face. Follow these five tips to ease the awkwardness and maintain your dignity.

Understand your embarrassment. Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” If we weren’t aware of our actions, we wouldn’t feel the need to be embarrassed. To better understand your situation, start by determining exactly what you did and figuring out whether the situation could have been avoided.

Keep a sense of perspective. When something embarrassing happens, people tend to think that “everyone” witnessed what we did, which is a self-centered view, explains counselor Dr. Roger Keener. In reality, maybe no one saw it or only a few people did. Take some time to think about the situation instead of reacting immediately.

Think of others. there may be multiple dimensions to our embarrassment. In addition to your own feelings of humiliation, others may feel angry and hurt. In these cases, you’ll need to focus on correcting the situation, and an apology may be in order.

React appropriately or use humor. Remember that whatever you’ve done, chances are, it’s been done before. Overreacting or trying to cover up your embarrassment can make matters worse, and sometimes humor can make the situation less awkward. If you simply left your fly undone, laugh about it. If it’s a situation you can’t laugh off, at least recognize what you did by saying, “Jeez, I can’t believe I did that.”

Change your behavior. If the circumstances of the embarrassment were within your control and you’ve hurt other people, you’ll need to think about becoming more sensitive to what your actions and words mean. By becoming more sensitive to your surroundings, you’ll reduce the risk of embarrassing situations in the future.

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