The Secret To Avoiding Embarrassment

We all experience awkward moments.

Posted Jan 06, 2019

We are all painfully familiar with that sinking feeling we get when we are right smack in the middle of an embarrassing moment. Those are the moments when we wish we could put words that we said right back into our mouths. Or, maybe we wish that we would have attended to our appearance more carefully before we left the house or walked into the party. Perhaps, we hit the send button on a text and wish as hard as we possibly can, that we never sent this text in the first place. We have all been there and have regretted moments of humiliation, awkwardness, discomfort, self-consciousness, and even shame. And, sometimes, we are able to look back at these times and laugh a little. At the time, however, laughing is the last thing that we'd like to do. 

I'm thinking about embarrassing moments right now because so many people have been telling me about their holiday experiences full of joy, pain, and the inevitable humiliating moments. So, join me as I explain the three categories of embarrassment and then tell you the way to avoid many of these unwelcome moments in the first place. 

Those moments that make you want to literally disappear tend to fall into three discrete categories.

1. Social Media Mistakes

Most of us enjoy the ease with which we can reach others on social media. The problem with this sort of communication is that it all happens so quickly. Just like in any other relationship, the things that we like about social media are also the things that we ultimately dislike. The speed of communicating in this manner often gets us into some very awkward situations. Consider the last time you sent a text to the wrong person. I will never forget the time that I intended to send my daughter an I love you message with at least two little red hearts. As you probably already guessed, I sent it to a colleague. Although I explained that it was intended to go to my daughter, I am not sure that the colleague ever really believed that. I have heard many stories of adults hitting the reply all on an e-mail message that was intended to go to one individual only. Instead, it went to several people who should not have received it and feelings were hurt and boundaries were crossed. Lots of repair work and apologies followed but as we all know, some blunders can't be repaired. Both friendships and work relationships can suffer. My best suggestion here is to stop and think and not let your finger tapping get ahead of your thoughts. Slow down.

2. Presentation-Related Problems

We're all rushing around, aren't we? This accounts for many of the appearance-related faux pas that make us wish that we would have spent just five more minutes getting ready. How about the woman who arrived at her job interview with a blue shoe on one foot and a brown shoe on the other? She was so eager to get to the job interview and was so qualified for the job. Needless to say, she became so flustered when she noticed her wardrobe mistake that she could barely make it through the interview and didn't get called back for a second interview. And, what about going to a teacher-parent meeting with food stuck in between your two front teeth? You were so eager to eat lunch before the meeting that you forgot to take a final glance in the mirror. We all have been humiliated after walking out of a restroom with toilet paper on the bottoms of our shoes. Although we are in good company here, it is nonetheless more than just a little painful. We are all trying to make a nice impression and toilet paper should, of course, be left where it belongs, in the bathroom. Slow down.

And finally, most of our embarrassing moments fall into the following category and there are way too many to even mention.

3. Interpersonal Missteps

We have all waved to or attempted to greet someone who we thought was someone else, yes? Remember, the last time you rushed toward a complete stranger thinking it was an opportunity to catch up with someone you knew from a former job, your child's dance classes etc. And you got closer and realized that, yikes, you had no idea who this person was. How about the times you ran into someone you recognized correctly and forgot that person's name? And even more embarrassing is when you have someone with you who you would like to introduce to this person whose name eludes you. How about what happens in the midst of interactions? You tell someone about an upcoming event and find out that they were not invited? Or you gossip about someone and realize that you are in the company of their good friend? You forget to knock on the bathroom door and inadvertently walk in on someone. They emerge and you, of course, avoid eye contact. What about being caught in what you thought was an iron-clad lie? Or how about this set of events? You are meeting someone new. You make assumptions that may lead to all sorts of embarrassing moments. You assume that someone doesn't speak English so you try out your rusty Spanish-speaking skills from high school. The person responds in perfect English. Ouch. Or, how about how you feel when you flirt with someone who you later find out is married and unavailable? In all of these instances, I suggest that you slow down.

While it is inevitable that we will all find ourselves in painfully embarrassing situations many of these can be avoided if we take a moment and slow down. It is when we rush to a meeting or judgment that tactfulness eludes us.