Embrace Your Embarrassment

Nobody wants to feel embarrassed. But embracing embarrassment instead of trying to deny it or find a scapegoat makes you more likeable and more trustworthy. And that leads to happy clients who will send you more work.

Keep It Real

In a sense, no one ever graduates from high school. Even decades after escaping teenage drama for the supposedly more mature world of work, we are still self-conscious and fearful of looking foolish. Lawyers are particularly fearful of this. Our education and the importance of our work strongly suggest that we must always appear perfectly composed, competent, and confident. The fact that many of us are pompous asses to begin with doesn’t help either.


But a new study at Cal – Berkeley supports what we may have intuitively known all along: those who react gracefully to embarrassing moments are not thought of as incompetent, but rather as “real” and worthy of one’s trust. Those who don’t handle embarrassment well, by trying to deny it or run away from it come off as phony, unlikeable, and, perhaps most important to a lawyer, untrustworthy.

Give People a Chance to Feel Divine

People who are genuinely confident come right out and admit they are embarrassed when they botch something. This shows they know that everyone is embarrassed from time to time because everyone makes mistakes. But embracing embarrassment also shows that they have the self-confidence to believe that this embarrassment is, in the long term, completely eclipsed by the quality of their work, and the quality of their relationships.

So, not only do you have an ethical obligation to admit to your client that you made a mistake, you have good reasons to not hide the fact that you are embarrassed about making that mistake, and that your embarrassment will help you to not repeat it.

There are some mistakes that will lose your case and possibly get you in real trouble. Those are the ones that you simply must avoid, and if you are a new solo, you are crazy if you do not have mentors to help you avoid them. As for the more pedestrian mistakes, I’ve found that learning through embarrassment is the most effective educational method of them all.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cameronparkins/3705111160/)

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  • This is absolutely true. Sometimes I play on it and other times I ignore it and keep going as if the embarassing moment never happened. That seems to work too especially if you have time constraints and need to keep the meeting or whatever going. Thanks!