Was My Face Red: Handling Embarrasing Moments

Blunders, stumbles, errors in judgement, and just plain “I can’t believe I said that” moments … we’ve all had them.

Some of our DOH moments are embarrassing but in the end, the only thing that gets bruised is personal pride.

Sometime those “I can’t believe I said that” moments are more serious.  Sometimes our words or actions are hurtful.  We act out of character and, in a moment of weakness, don’t speak up for someone when we should.  Perhaps we are given an easy out of a challenging situation and take it, even though that meant a colleague took our share of the blame.  Perhaps we snap at a team member because our kids are stressing us out at home.  We are embarrassed and ashamed of our less than exemplary behaviour.

It would be nice if we never stumbled and fell, but we all do.  When we do, we have two choices. We can either own the moment or disown it.

When we disown the moment, we:

  • Pretend it never happened in the hope others will just forget about it.
  • Make excuses for bad behaviour
  • Punish anybody who was witness to or speaks about the moment

The problem with disowning the moment is that it doesn’t go away.  Ignoring it, quashing any and all references to it or making the hole deeper by continuing to make excuses, keeps it front and centre.  It creates rifts in relationships, breaks down trust and blocks effective communication.

When we own the moment, we:

  • Acknowledge it happened.
  • Laugh, if appropriate.  Laughing at ourselves helps take the sting out of an embarrassing moment.
  • Apologize, if necessary.  When you mess up, say you’re sorry.  No excuses. Period

Owning the moment takes courage.  It says “I’m not perfect.”  Owning the moment builds trust and opens the door to meaningful communication.

Acknowledging and owning blunders, stumbles, errors in judgements and just plain “I can’t believe I said that moments” makes leaders approachable.  It builds respect and trust.

What do you think?