Embarrassing moments are difficult to recover from.
You’ll find yourself playing embarrassing highlights over in your mind. Those regret-filled thoughts can paralyze you in similar situations down the line and can moisten your upper lip as you lay awake at night in a heightened state. Embarrassing moments can lead to emotional decisions being made and can cause anxiety while performing in the future.
The first thing you should remember is that nobody goes through life without being frighteningly embarrassed. The feeling of embarrassing doom is normal, and you wouldn’t be of a healthy mind if you didn’t instantly notice there not being any way to salvage your pride.
So how should you conduct yourself in moments of embarrassment?
This article aims to provide some guidelines on what to do directly after being embarrassed, particularly in a professional environment.
Let’s move forward with the example of spilling coffee on your white shirt during a team meeting in mind. Imagine the laughter emanating from colleagues at the table; it doesn’t stem from targeted comedic intent, but is at your direct social expense.
The Mental State You Held Prior – Pressing the Reset Button
During the embarrassing moment itself, and after the reaction has taken place and settled down, quickly reset your mind to where it was prior to committing the embarrassing act.
You should let go of any feelings you have which resulted from your embarrassment, and continue focusing on what’s in front. Your ability to let go will be recognized and respected by those around you. Get back to business, and force yourself to refocus on the task at hand. Try to not let your mind wander and relive the embarrassing instance which just occurred.
The content at hand will save you from reliving the moment over and over, thereby commit your undivided attention to productive things. Once the ball of productivity begins to roll again, your embarrassing moment will be likelier to be forgotten and overlooked.
Productivity is the antidote to embarrassment, so make sure you bounce back strong in any setting that you’re in. Provide something of value as soon as the laughter has seized, and get everyone around you focused back to the business at hand.
As a leader, the traits of placing distractions aside will garner you respect. There is no greater distraction than committing an utterly embarrassing act. Your image of composure takes a hit in such instances, and it is up to you whether or not you bounce back from it.
Your first step should be to let go of the control you had in that specific situation and laugh at yourself. Don’t ignore embarrassing moments but don’t live inside them for too long either. After the fun at your expense has been had, press a button to reset and focus back to what is productive for yourself and others.
The worst look of all is one where an embarrassed individual simply can’t let go of the moment. Self deprecating jokes spanning too long after the fact and a general shutdown of behavior they were previously partaking in encourages others’ respect for them to dwindle.
Respect is gained when people see that you can honestly laugh at yourself without being defensive in the moment. Not allowing the moment to distract from unrelated things you’re tasked to perform cements the respect you’ve gained and communicates that the fun at your expense can’t last forever.
Not Allowing a Moment to Grow Into an Identity
It is okay for you to laugh at yourself. Laugh along if you need to, and acknowledge the comedic effect your embarrassing action brought with it. However, you should only acknowledge your moment of embarrassment once – during the time that it occurs.
Be socially unrewarding to people who bring up what you did a few hours, days, or weeks ago. It is important that you do not accept the connections others try to establish between your identity and your embarrassing actions.
Those who allow themselves to be labelled in accordance to the embarrassing things they’ve done make the mistake of associating their identity with embarrassment. Though it may not seem dangerous to let that association slip by, it can play itself out in detrimental ways in random aspects of your social interactions.
Those who let themselves be defined by their embarrassing moments will be less likely to be trusted with important tasks, accepted as leaders, and generally listened to for new ideas.
It may seem like a stretch to relate these aspects, but the effect of being weak in protecting your reputation affects the subconscious quick decisions others make around you. Segregate your mistakes from your identity by laughing at yourself when needed, but not allowing your embarrassing moments to travel with you down the road.
Do not reward those who bring up your past mistakes; let their comments sulk in silence if they need to. Other methods of doing so may entail catchall phrases such as, “We’ve all been there,” or “We all make mistakes.” Not providing an affirmative reaction is the most effective method in getting people to stop bringing up what you don’t want them to.
Ensure you remember that negative reactions can be mistaken for affirmative ones as well. Some people enjoy getting under others’ skin and serve to use their victims’ negative reactions as grounds for the development of an unfavorable label. Be numbingly neutral in your reactions to people who continue citing your embarrassing moments down the line.