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How To Survive Embarrassment / For men
Being embarrassed is traumatic because few human emotions manifest as viciously. Depending on the size of your audience and who’s part of it, embarrassing traits such as blushing, sweating, stammering, trembling, and fidgeting can all skyrocket exponentially when you’re nervous.
No matter how hideous the situation, your reaction can affect it; you alone have the power to make it infinitely worse or a degree or two better.
To that end, I’ll take a stroll through a range of catastrophic dilemmas, whittle them down to specifics, and suggest some steps to mitigate your embarrassment – to downgrade it from catastrophe to minor disaster or, depending on your delivery, even turn it into a spectacular success.
Your attempt at humor bombs
In the middle of giving a well-prepared presentation, you feel comfortable enough to go off your notes and relay a joke: “So, what did John and Yoko say to Sean to get him to eat his vegetables? ‘All we’re saying is give peas a chance.’”
Remedy: More humor! That’s right; own up to your disaster, but don’t go too far. Say things like “Don’t worry, I’ll be telling some jokes later,” “That went according to plan” or “In a few hours, that’ll be hilarious.”
A joke that bombs leaves people a little embarrassed for you, but it also leaves a bad impression – unless you flash a perceptible sense of humor in its wake. Self-deprecating humor is seductive; it shows a self-awareness that doesn’t take itself too seriously – a trait people find hard to ignore.
Two motifs should be evident: Keep your cool and keep your spoken reaction to one sentence
You say something inappropriate or offensive
It‘s happy hour with the same crew from work with one exception: Your boss agreed to come. She’s nice, but you don’t personally know her very well. Conversation and beers are flowing when a man walks in to whom your boss says hi. Turns out the man’s her ex. “I dated him before I met my husband, so my husband can’t stand him.” You forget where you are, who you’re talking to: “I don’t blame him; no one likes sloppy seconds.”
Remedy: Apologize – now. An abrupt and heartfelt apology will accomplish three things: disable the situation’s urgency, disarm the offended party, and reroute some of that bad vibe. Simply say, “I’m really sorry; that was inconsiderate.”
You won’t always have the luxury of knowing right away that you’ve offended someone; this information may come out much later. Unless what you said was supremely out of character – something racist or highly insulting – your best bet is to forget about it with the hope that everyone else will too and chalk it up to experience.
You talk trash about someone to their friends
You’re at a party chatting it up with a few ladies. One tells a stinging story about a woman named Judy. After asking Judy’s last name, you say, “Doesn’t surprise me. I actually had a one-night stand with her. She would not stop calling me. Finally, I told her I was being sent to a mental hospital; moron sent me a get-well card!” To which the woman replies, “Judy’s my sister.”
Remedy: Bite this one, swallow it, suck it up, whatever clich you need, take it. Say ”Oh man. That was insensitive of me, I’m sorry.”
Your best move is to acknowledge that what you said was stupid and insensitive. Offer a sincere apology and change the subject. This last step is very important, otherwise what happens? The deadly silence descends and proceeds to amplify your apology, but not in a good way. Don’t give people time to reconsider it; they’ll do that later.
You can’t remember someone’s name
While eating out with friends, you’re surprised by an enthusiastic woman: “James? Hey, good to see you! How are you?” You know her, but her name... Panic sets in knowing that you’ll be charged with introducing her to your friends.
Remedy: React according to what you’re given.
• Respond to a generic “How are you doing?” by saying “How am I? How do you think I’m doing – or wait, when’s the last time we spoke?” She tells you when or where, and you hope you can ascertain her name.
• Consequently, anything specific she greets you with is also fair game. Divert her attention to something you do know. With any luck, something will jog your memory.
• Another option is to own up. “I’m so sorry, I’ve had a long day and I can’t remember your name.”
Keep this in mind: It isn’t literary dialogue. Short of needing to make introductions, we don’t use one another’s names very often in conversation. Generally, we say them at hello and goodbye. You’ve already missed the first opportunity, and it may or may not have been obvious. Either way, steer the conversation toward a personal detail that you are familiar with rather than blundering over this most important one.
You fart in public
You’re holding court with a dazzling set of girls; you’d be pleased to go home with any one of them. The story you’re relating requires you to squat down, when suddenly an audible one slips out.
Remedy: Ignore it and make a strong commitment to that by picking up the conversation where it stopped.
Arguably there is no graceful exit here. A diversion is the lesser of all evils; every other solution simply extends its shelf life exponentially, and this will hurt you more than you know. Simply because you’re the star of an embarrassing situation hardly means you’re the only one embarrassed; others are bound to feel embarrassed too – granted they feel this way for you, but this form of discomfort shares many of the same features. As a result, if you acknowledge your fart with “Thai food – gets me every time” or “Oops!” you’re giving new life to a situation others want to see die as much as you do.
In accordance with the situation above, your only other option – used with great discretion – is to add, “Well, that part didn’t happen, but the rest of it did.”
Dying of embarrassment
Two motifs should be evident: Keep your cool and keep your spoken reaction to one sentence. Together they represent your best chance of escaping these situations with your pride somewhat intact.
Being embarrassed ranks among life’s lowest nonlethal moments, and most of us go to great lengths to avoid it. Yet, unlike other low moments, like hearing horrible news or enduring a brutal injury, a moment of embarrassment has a singularly killer capacity: Over time, it can become funny.
If all else fails, take solace in that.
When the chess game is over, the pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all go back into the same box
Someone makes you the butt of a joke
You’re out at a club with friends and approach a woman who’s slowly moving to the beat. You ask her to dance. Your friends and others are in earshot when she says, “Thanks, but I am dancing.”
Remedy: Force out a genuine smile; good-natured responses like “Yeah, that’s true” will always be the only winners here.
However you choose to respond, do not go on the defensive; don’t strike back with an insult or promise revenge. You’ll look like a humorless fool, especially if the joke suggests something about you that is patently impossible. There’s just enough truth in the old saying, “None proclaim their innocence so loudly as the guilty,” to convict you on the spot.