Eight Of The Most Common Embarrassing Situations - And How To Negotiate Them!
Let me help you pick your way through a minefield of tricky experiences
We all face embarrassing experiences from foot-firmly-in-your-mouth disease like the time I asked a woman when she was "expecting" and she simply had a very plump tummy (oops!) or needing to break unpleasant news that makes you wish the ground would swallow you up.
Embarrassing and delicate situations run the gamut from wanting a quiet word with an Amy Winehouse-type friend about going easy on the tattoos, to rejecting an unwanted invitation as top-notch celebrities did with Coleen McLaughlin's 21st birthday party. And spare a thought for those who'll have to address Prince Harry's un-regal clubbing behaviour.
Recently I had the delicate task of letting a short-sighted but extremely attractive and fashion-conscious friend know her facial hair was becoming very obvious. I knew she'd hate it if no one told her, but how tricky is that one?
To spare your worst blushes here's advice for negotiating eight common embarrassing or tricky situations:
1/ Space-invader –
People that lean over you, talk in your face and crowd your personal space are intimidating, annoying, and positively creepy when a man does it to a woman. Tackle through your body language. As they lean over your desk push yourself back in your chair, enforcing your boundary. If they crowd you while standing again move away, looking them directly in the eye. Subconsciously they should register this gentle challenge to back off.
2/ Delicate Situations –
If you've experienced a colleague with, e.g., body odour/dandruff you'll know it's unpleasant. Subtly is the solution. Mention a "fantastic new shower gel, shampoo, etc.," you tried. If interested bring them a sample. If they don't grab the bait, leave it a few weeks before taking aside. Keep it casual – don't make a big deal. That's embarrassing. Personalise it by saying you've experienced the problem - taking the sting out - even if you must invent your own problem. The cheat's way is anonymously leaving deodorant on their desk - but sitting nearby you'll be the likely suspect! With other sensitive issues, e.g., ladies moustaches, again thoughtful yet simple and direct is best. Ask them to return the favour saying you don't want to be left in the dark on any such thing.
3/ The Badly Behaved –
You're right to be wary giving advice to a loved one where, e.g., drinking's out of control. Pride makes them defensive so avoid a "holier than thou" attitude. Talk-up things they're doing well - there must be positives in their life! Then express "concerns" tactfully. Ask if they think things are a little out of control. This approach builds trust and spares some of their feelings. Assure them you're always at the end of the phone.
4/ How To Say No –
There'll be invitations, events, etc., you want to decline without offending. It may be nothing to do with not "liking" the person. Keep it short, don't dither, else they will think you don't like them. Say thanks but you simply "can't make it" as grand explanations don't wash. Cushion your refusal by saying you know you'd enjoy that after-work dinner "but don't have time now." Fibbing doesn't help - turn down their invitation with a lame excuse and they're bound to spot you out and about.
5/ Time Wasters –
Some friends/colleagues have too much time ringing in the middle of your busy day wanting a gossip. A great strategy is making them think you're giving them something when you cut them short. For example, tell them you want to talk, perhaps saying you've a little "news" to share, but that you "sadly" must get on with work. Feeling "wanted" will prevent feeling rejected. Face it, the old "my mobile's cutting out" trick no longer works!
6/ Privy To Private Information –
It's awful when, e.g., you get wind your best friend's husband is cheating. How do you face them with hurtful news? The key is remembering it's not your fault. You can only do your best and decide whether you share the information. If you do, be discreet, and prepare them by saying you've got difficult news. Give them time to digest it and be a "shoulder".
7/ Getting Caught Out –
It seemed a good idea telling your best friend you'd be out of town when you wanted a quiet weekend with your new partner. They then catch you out. It's humiliating and you regret it - the only solution is holding your hands up and apologising sincerely. As with all embarrassing damage-limitation, keep to the point. It's the same when you put your foot in it. Retract it immediately and say you're sorry.
8/ Nasty Noises, Smells And Other Little Horrors –
Whether you or someone you're with passes wind, burps, or has an embarrassing coughing attack, etc., we all must such face little horrors requiring sensitive handling. The best tack is diversion. Ask for the time, bring up any old topic, fetch some water for that cough, but distract both of your attention away from the embarrassment.
As you see, you don't have to die a 1000 deaths delivering uncomfortable news. You can do so with diplomacy and perhaps a bit of sneakiness!
Published in The Express Newspaper