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Life Support: How to cope with embarrassment

Essential skills for the modern World

Don't show it

Hiding your feelings in order to save face can be the best way of defusing an embarrassing situation.

Acknowledging feelings of humiliation will only make the people around you feel awkward. It is an awareness of this that prompts people to jump up from painful falls, slips and stumbles as if nothing has happened. While it is difficult to mask some physical indications of embarrassment, such as blushing, stammering and sweating, keeping your head held high, your back straight, and maintaining eye contact will help you to look confident.

Don't beat yourself up

Even if something utterly mortifying happens to you, see it for what it is – an isolated embarrassing incident. While it is natural to feel a wave of shame pass over you, don't drown in it. It is also important not to let one humiliation feed into a negative thought process – spilling coffee down your shirt before an important business meeting or making a terrible joke in front of someone you fancy does not make you an unlovable mess, for example.

Avoid reliving it

No good can come of thinking over past embarrassments. The mind has masochistic tendencies and, left unchecked, often embellishes humiliating escapades until they become much worse than they actually were. Unlike celebrities, whose embarrassments are routinely recorded for posterity, we civilians can – and should – forget any cringe-making moments.

Laugh it off

A good way of taking the sting out of things is to laugh at ourselves. When we are humiliated, it is usually because something has stripped away our away our pride and pretensions, revealing the bumbling human beneath. While no-one wants to live in a continual state of mortification, this occasional humbling stops us taking ourselves too seriously.