Overcoming embarrassment with action

Raegan Hedley, Lifestyle Columnist


Last month, I had to call someone who I wanted to be part of a really important project. I’m keeping the details vague to avoid further embarrassment, but I intended to call this person to set up a meeting to sit down with them and explain the details. As it was, he wanted me to outline everything over the phone. I was at work and had none of my prepared information in front of me.

I decided to wing it.

I did my best to explain everything to him from memory. Halfway through the call, he interjected and asked me something I couldn’t remember. After blatantly stumbling through a lie, he realized I didn’t know what I was talking about. When the conversation was over, I put my head down on my desk and stayed like that until I got over my shame.

Being professional in the face of embarrassment goes against everything your brain wants you to do – like curling up in a ball under your desk – which is why it’s so uncomfortable. Ignoring the situation will make things more uncomfortable when you are forced to revisit it. Giving a knee-jerk reaction could make you seem impulsive. You get one chance at a response after you embarrass yourself professionally, so don’t mess it up. Take it from me.

First off, the biggest mistake I made was lying. I should have just admitted I didn’t have an answer and elaborated on what I did know. I’ve seen this tactic used in political debates. The candidate will admit she doesn’t know something her opponent asks her, only to win over the crowd by answering with what she does know. That makes her seem more honest and genuine.

I also could have sent the person an email later in the day basically saying, “hey, I looked into what you asked me, and here’s my response. Sorry I couldn’t fully speak to this subject while we were talking before.” Be genuine, show the person you’re taking it seriously and do your research. This is not the time to be funny, even if you are the butt of your own joke.

The trick is to mitigate the embarrassment with action. You may not always be able to prevent embarrassing yourself, but taking a step back to deal with things after taking some time to hide in a bathroom stall isn’t the worst thing in the world. Think of it as an opportunity to own up to your screw-up and learn something from it.


Raegan Hedley is a sassy millennial who aspires to someday become a kick-ass business professional. In the meantime, she writes on her blog at raegjules.com and tweets way too much (@raegjules).