Like many people, I can be frozen by embarrassment – or even worse, frozen simply by the fear of embarrassment.
For example, recently I made an embarrassing goof during a podcast interview (one that insulted my guests), even though I’ve been working pretty hard to get better at interviewing. This goof affected my sleep for a couple of days – I’d wake up breathing slightly heavily and beating myself up: “How could I be so stupid?”
Whenever I experience something like that, I have an impulse to run away. For example, in this case, I had minor thoughts about quitting podcasting or dialing it back: “I guess I’m just not cut out for this.” However, I also knew that I had been working hard and improving, so I didn’t take that impulse too seriously. I observed my typical embarrassment reaction, but I knew instinctively that this was simply a bump in the road, and I’d eventually get over it.
This time, I took one additional step … I said, “I’m embarrassed” out loud. I was recording a test episode, and as I was pitching the next show, I mentioned my mistake. Instantly, I felt quite a bit better. At that point, I realized that it was simply a fact of my life: I did this, and it was embarrassing. I didn’t lose any more sleep. I’m still a bit embarrassed by it, but it’s not debilitating.
I’ll probably take one more step and simply apologize directly to my guests when I announce the show. They clearly noticed my gaff, and if I were in their shoes, I’d be insulted – I might as well not shy away from it.
This seems like a repeatable approach to me, although I hope I don’t have to use it too often. If you want to know the specifics of this particular faux pas, you’ll have to listen to my podcast.