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Respectfully Yours: Handle embarrassing moments with humor

Dear Jacquelyn,

When I have an embarrassing moment, like spilling coffee down my shirt at the precise moment when people are watching, I don’t know how to regain my composure. Can you please offer some tips for overcoming embarrassment?

Dear Reader,

Our lives are speckled with embarrassing moments that make us wish we could undo whatever it is we wish we hadn’t done.

The good news is we have a tendency to overestimate the extent that our mishap appears to be noticed by others. Take comfort in the fact that everyone deals with embarrassment. You are not alone.

Embarrassment plagues every one of us from time to time, but there are ways to regain composure and move on. The best strategy for resolving awkward embarrassing moments is confronting incidents head-on. Smoothing over mishaps quickly can turn the unpleasant awkward moment into an opportunity for learning and humor.

As soon as you recognize that you did something embarrassing, try using humor to defuse the embarrassing situation. Laugh it off and treat it for what it is, not the end of the world.

Understanding that mishaps happen and being able to make light of an embarrassing moment will make you appear more confident with yourself. A smile and a small dose of humor will go a long way.

When your embarrassment involves another person, for example spilling your drink on them, offer a sincere apology and excuse yourself. For example, “I’m really sorry. I’ve been racing around for the past several hours and I don’t feel like myself today.”

When you find yourself worrying about something embarrassing, you’re likely the only person worrying about it. Focus on things that went well that day, laugh at yourself, and carry on.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: jacquelyn@ptd.net. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training.

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