I sat with my friend Becca at breakfast, while she blushed and told me a story that embarrassed her. Last week, one of her coworkers sent out a photo of his new baby. Without realizing who she was responding to, she quickly typed, “OMG, she’s so cute! I could eat her.” The message was sent to 124 of her coworker’s closest friends.
I could immediately empathize with her. I have had many times in my life where I wish I could take back a sentence or two and the horrific embarrassment that came along with the moment, but these are the moments that make or break friendships.
Saying something unplanned or not well thought out is fine. We have to stop worrying about how others are going to think about us if we say something silly or down right embarrassing. Easier said than done… right??!! Let me offer some examples of what happens when we don’t brave the embarrassment.
Not Knowing What to Say
I see many clients that are very afraid to start friendships because they “don’t know what to say” or “don’t have anything interesting to talk about.” It’s just simply not true. I have yet to sit with a client that makes me so bored, that I would rather watch paint dry than talk with them. Yes, starting conversations is awkward at first, but the big news is that nearly everyone in the world has experienced social anxiety at some point.
Sometimes we expect that others have an easier time starting conversations, but maybe what they a really have is more practice. One doesn’t learn to play a guitar simply by looking at the instrument. You have to pick it up, play, mess up, and try again. Eventually it gets easier.
We also might expect to have a 10 out of 10 intimacy level from the second that we meet someone. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as it takes time to grow relationships. Starting with talking about the weather, the color of the wall or how the local sports team is performing, is perfectly fine. And if you accidently mention that your cat had a barf session all over your favorite shirt, the other person will probably have a similar story about his or her pet.
After we are in a relationship for a while, sometimes it’s really challenging open up and share more about ourselves. Maybe we’ve moved up the intimacy scale from a level 1 to 5, but fear going further. We fear rejection for our “weirdness,” our past, or even bringing up something we want to improve in the relationship. Remember that by speaking up, we are actually saying, “I care about you enough to share this with you. I trust you.” Who doesn’t want that?
Social Signals While Sharing Matter
If you find that a partner rejects you for sharing, there may be something wrong with the manner in which you are going about sharing. Did you share with a monotone voice, laugh while talking about something serious, or apologize with a flat face? How we signal when we share matters as to how our message is received. Don’t immediately blame the other person for not being able to hear your message. Keep trying.
You might have to preface the discussion with a “Hey, I want to share something with you, because I care about our relationship and want to feel closer with you…” It is perfectly fine to give them a heads up and seem nervous. No one can read our minds and when we start from a place of openness, we are more likely to receive openness in return.
Blush Away, People Love It
We love to see others blush. Blushing can’t be faked, it’s an involuntary reaction to embarrassment. It makes you look human rather than full of yourself. I have a therapist friend that works with many clients with sexual issues and every time she and I are consulting on one of her cases she still blushes. It’s one of my favorite traits about her. It shows me she’s open and not faking. It makes me want to help her and give her good advice.
For another example, when I was 19, I remember meeting a really cute guy at a summer job. I was so nervous that I introduced myself as his name – “Travis”. I literally thought I was going to die of embarrassment, but he just laughed and said, “Hey that’s my name too.” Instead of repelling him, we went on to start a summer love. It was a good reminder not to take myself so seriously.
To put this into further perspective, how many stories about your friends or family that you love are the ones when they are doing something embarrassing or emotional? I bet the answer is most of them.