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How to Deal With an Embarrassing Situation, According to Science

How to Deal With an Embarrassing Situation, According to Science
From TIME - March 29, 2018

When you do something embarrassing, you probably wish you were someoneanyoneelse.

But new research says thats not just an instinctual reaction: Its actually a good strategy for dealing with cringe-worthy moments.

A new study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion says that picturing yourself as an observer of the gaffe, rather than a participant, may minimize distress. Its [about] detaching yourself from this embarrassing situation and realizing observers wont judge you harshly, explains Li Jiang, one of the studys authors and a researcher at Carnegie Mellon Universitys Center for Behavioral and Decision Research.

The trick, however, is to look at yourself as a truly anonymous observernot from another persons perspective, Jiang says. Taking on the profile of a third-party observer is more powerful, she says, because it provides more distance from the situation.

In one experiment included in the study, 107 university students were told that researchers were looking for volunteers to discuss how doctors could improve communications regarding sensitive health issues such as sexually transmitted infections. Participants then took one of two surveys. One version first asked how likely they were to volunteer for the study and how they would expect to feel during the sessionwhich would involve answering personal questionsthen about how they would expect the researchers to feel toward them.

The second version asked the same questions in the opposite order, forcing respondents to consider the researchers thought processes before their own. People most prone to embarrassment (as measured by responses to a self-consciousness test) were more likely to say theyd participate if they had taken the second survey, the researchers foundsuggesting that framing the situation through the eyes of an observer made a difference.

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