March 10, 2017

Professional Development

3 Productive Alternatives to Embarrassment

By: Brian Nuckols

Embarrassment is part of life.

From sending out a mass email with an obvious typo to gruesomely mispronouncing a potential customer’s name, and even well-meaning attempts at humor that don’t go as planned I’ve done them all.

Instead of shrinking, becoming paralyzed, and setting my career back when these missteps happen I’ve collected three tactics to deal with them elegantly.

Respond to mistakes with action.

In the aftermath of an embarrassing mishap at work avoid the urge to sit shell-shocked waiting for someone or something to fix the error.

Instead take these steps.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Organize your thoughts.
  3. Settle on a solution
  4. Break that solution down into a few steps
  5. Plunge yourself into action on step one

As Goethe famously said, “Action has magic, power, and grace to it.” It’s comforting to everyone involved when conflict is met with action.

Assume the best in everyone

A powerful concept I learned from the leadership over at Praxis is the principle of charitable interpretation.

To summarize, it’s the assumption that other people in your life don’t operate from a default mean or malicious position.

After making a mistake, it’s easy to assume that your colleagues, boss, and clients are constantly leering at you, or judging your shortcomings behind your back.

Studies show these fears are commonly exaggerated.

People who imagine committing social blunders at work, or who experience a public intellectual embarrassment anticipate being judged more harshly by others than happens in reality.

In my own experience, having a positive reaction to mistakes has actually had an intensely positive impact on my reputation. Taking action and cleaning up messes is a way to build trustworthiness.

If you prove yourself in the tough situations leaders won’t hesitate to give you more responsibility.

Explore your individuality

The inimitable Dan Sanchez warns us of “other discipline,” or the tendency to seek approval and validation from authority figures.

Instead, explore your values, and take sovereignty over what gives you meaning in life.

If you’re having trouble with this I suggest a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.


  1. Why your life is meaningful – Decide for yourself what makes you light up.
  2. How you will fulfill this core belief in your life.
  3. What steps you take everyday to accomplish this.

I highly suggest reviewing why you exist daily. When negative experiences happen, remember that the discomfort is in service to a higher aim.

Take risks and fear nothing.

Brian Nuckols is a writer and marketing consultant. He blogs at