Embarrassment is an emotion. It’s a negative form of self-consciousness (Lewis, 2008). Like any negative emotion, embarrassment can and should be managed. Negative emotions like anger, fear and sadness serve important purposes. The key is learning how to respond to a negative emotion in a positive fashion.
Embarrassment isn’t all bad. Research shows that people who acknowledge embarrassment are more easily liked, forgiven and trusted (Keltner & Anderson, 2000). Being embarrassed shows people that you regret your behavior and want to do better (Miller, 2007).
Think of embarrassment as a queue. Sure, embarrassment sucks because it makes us uncomfortable, but its nothing more than our mind”s way of saying “Stop! We have something we need to clean up here.” Embarrassment becomes a problem when you can’t let it go.
We overestimate the degree to which others notice (or care) about our behaviors (Gilovich, Medvec & Savitsky). The fact is, people are way more concerned with their own issues than they are with ours! We tend to hold on to our embarrassment way after others have moved on.
If you’ve done something you regret, simply own it. That let’s people know you’re aware and well intended. Then remind yourself that you care more about the issue than they do. Don’t fight embarrassment, use it for good.