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An Expert Tip To Stop You 'Dying' From Embarrassment

It's all about the first 7 seconds.
Unfortunately, the ground isn't going to open up and swallow you.
Unfortunately, the ground isn't going to open up and swallow you.

It happens to every single one of us at some point. That horrifying moment when you realise you've had an epic wardrobe malfunction, lapse in politeness, or very messy mishap in a stranger's bathroom, and the wave of embarrassment feels like it might not just ruin your day but your whole life.

But the key to cutting the mortification off at the knees is simple: Go with it.

In the latest episode of our podcast HuffPost Humans -- How Embarrassing -- UNSW psychologist Lisa Williams says the emotion of embarrassment actually serves a purpose in forming social bonds and bringing others back onside when you commit a social faux pas.

"Researchers have argued that, just like other emotions, embarrassment actually helps us deal with some of the situations that we find ourselves in. So in a situation of a social faux pas, what embarrassment does for us is it leads us to engage in behaviours that make others forgive us for doing the faux pas," Williams said.

Listen to the full podcast here, or download it from the iTunes Store (search for HuffPost Humans).

"Embarrassment is kind of the signal that there is a social communication going on and the person acknowledges that they've done something, then social interactions can continue."

This is all well and good but what to do when it happens to you?

"In the moment, what the research would suggest, is just to allow your normal reaction to go. Dacher Keltner is a social psychologist and he established this 7 second dynamic cue of embarrassment. It involves turning your eyes to the side and tucking your chin down and a slight smile, and he finds this consistently displayed by people across several cultures. So there's good evidence this is this sort of non-verbal expression," Williams said.

"This is the first step to this process of making things OK. If anything, I would say, just sort of let that moment, those 7 to 10 seconds unroll, because chances are your natural embarrassment display there is really going to help you in that situation.

"The second bit of advice is probably to realise that everyone has been embarrassed."

HuffPost Humans is a podcast by The Huffington Post Australia. You can download the latest episodes at iTunes or Whooshka, or your favourite podcast app. If you have a story you'd like us to tell, contact us at:

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