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Bounce back from embarrassment

Damage control for mortifying moments

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by on
in Workplace Communication

Everyone makes an occasional faux pas in front of the boss or colleagues. The real test isn’t what you did but how you respond.

Whether you unintentionally insult a co-worker or stumble into the CEO’s lap, your first thought should be, “Show grace.” Your unflappable and slightly self-deprecating reaction can impress others, rather than make them uncomfortable.

Here’s how to prepare for those inevitable unzipped moments:

Just say thanks. If someone notes that your fly is down, there’s food in your teeth or some other embarrassing observation, keep cool. Say, “Thanks,” correct the situation as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, and then press on.

Don’t fall into the “explanation trap” and call more attention to the problem. Some people instinctively start discussing why something happened, thus compounding their embarrassment by needlessly offering details. Red-faced individuals often feel compelled to justify anything that threatens to lower their status within a group, rather than just repairing the mishap and moving on.

Laugh it off. A dose of self-deprecating wit can help you attain rapid closure without adding to your embarrassment. For example, if you lose your place during a presentation, say, “I’ve lost my place, for which some of you may be very grateful.” If you trip over your own feet on your way to the podium, say, “I guess I won’t earn perfect 10s from the judges for that move.”

Watch your body language. Don’t try to hide after you’ve made a faux pas. Resist the urge to cover your face, look down and away or bury your head in your arms. Hold yourself up high and you’ll earn others’ respect.

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