Over the years, I’ve come to realize that no matter how prepared you are for something, mistakes are a part of life. To give you some comfort, here’s a quick guide to help you move past difficult feelings and move forward with confidence after an embarrassing moment in life. Work,
- Take a deep breath: When ashamed, your first reaction will probably be to hide and punish yourself. In this case, take a break. If your slip is causing you panic and anxiety, try slowing your heart rate by taking deep breaths.
- Treat yourself with grace and compassion: Remember that things could have been much worse. He fell asleep in the meeting, but he could snore and drool. He spilled water on the conference table, but he could have spilled it on a pile of ultra-important documents, or worse, on an electrical outlet. He tripped on the platform, but he could have hurt himself. He was able to get up, move himself, and laugh.
- Accept what really happened and accept the situation or error: It is likely that nobody really paid attention to all the details that you reproduce and perhaps you exaggerate in your mind. For example, if you need to apologize after an embarrassing moment, do so for closure. This is easier said than done, as we often prefer to hide rather than face the situation, but remember that closure helps you move forward.
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- Highlight Lightness: Some of our most embarrassing moments are actually quite funny and others can be relatable (if we’re willing to see them that way). Every work environment needs more fun. Give it some time and don’t hold back your laughter when it feels good. Laughter has many benefits, including improving intake of oxygen-rich air, relieving stress, and increasing productivity.
- you’re not alone. Relive the moment with a friend, but avoid negative rumination: If you just can’t let go and your mind is wandering, talk about it with trusted friends. Not only listen to your friends, but also pay attention to their body language and facial expressions, which are likely to be full of sympathy. Everyone experiences and deals with embarrassment differently, but we don’t have to do it alone.
- to distract: If you’re not ready to talk to a friend yet, do something that will get you off your mind. I love watching movies, listening to music or exercising, so I’m totally into something else. Distraction helps the ego. Whatever you do, don’t contemplate alone.
You will be embarrassed at some point in your career. The worst thing you can do afterwards is collapse. Invalidating your feelings or using your mistakes as an indication of your worth is not productive. You’ve done something that has drawn unwanted attention and it’s completely reasonable that you want to step away for a while. But come out of hiding.
Mistakes don’t define it. Mistakes make you human. Professional person. We could all do more to appreciate our imperfections as well as our competencies.
(Lan Nguyen Chaplin is Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications).