Embarrassment smiley


What’s your most embarrassing moment?

That infamous question that most of us dread being asked. Cringeworthy recollections one tries to relegate to oblivion. But the latest research says such ego failures warrant an embarrassment embrace. If asked for a big embarrassment in an interview, it is an exceptional opportunity to shine.

According to Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California Berkeley (coauthor of a new paper on the emotion forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), such embarrassment is central to “the fabric of healthy cooperative social life.” Examined by Matthew Hutson in is Boston Globe piece “Embrace the Blush: Feeling mortified? That’s good news, says an expert”…

  • “As Goffman and others have argued, the painful experience of embarrassment is not just an awkward hiccup in our social graces, but a necessary, hard-to-fake apology for violating social norms.   In the new study, Keltner and his fellow researchers extended these findings to show that embarrassment displays are an accurate gauge of all-around benevolence — and that the rest of us know it. Those who show greater embarrassment, they found, are more generous and less likely to cheat on a partner. And others pick up on this connection; as the researchers found, showing embarrassment leads to being entrusted with greater resources. In other words, that awkward state means you care — and others get the message…’You’ve shown that embarrassment should not necessarily be avoided; it should be embraced.” [asked Ideas] and Keltner responded, ‘At the moment of embarrassment we think, “This is the worst moment of life. I have just given a talk with my zipper down, or I’ve just called this guy by the wrong name, or I farted in my yoga class.” …But it turns out, there are all these really surprising benefits to showing embarrassment. One is, people trust you more. Second is, if you’re dating, people will like you more. There’s an old study, we like people who do mishaps. A third is what we just found recently: People give you resources.’”

Cari Nierenberg provides more material on this perspective in his article “Upside to embarrassing moments: They make people like you

  • “Although these flubs may leave you red-faced, avoiding eye contact, or laughing nervously, a new study suggests that embarrassment can be a good thing. The upside of being easily flustered is that people are likely to perceive you as a kind and caring person — someone that others are likely to trust and want to be friends with, says study lead author Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.”

If you need some inspiration, ‘5 embarrassing office stories that will make you cringe’ are a few tales to put your own travails into perspective. My favourite was the email mishap…

  • Unfortunately, he has a sense of humor and the email said ‘This is my test email b-tches.’ We sent out a ‘We Really Screwed Up’ apology…We ended up getting hundreds of emails, but the ironic thing was 99% of them were overwhelmingly supportive — people just wanted to let us know that it made their day, or how happy they were to know it was real human beings and not corporate robots behind their service.”