How to handle uncomfortable situations with style.
Call a spade a spade. If the person who is embarrassing you is a competitive co-worker (and not lover or friend who can be reasoned with later, in private) simply call the person on it – and put a stop on the game on spot. Say, “Would you mind telling me what was that all about?” Or, “You seem bothered. Is there something you’re unhappy with that I should be aware of?”
Refuse to play the game. When Melissa agreed to meet a client at his hotel room, the man greeted her at the door, wearing only a towel, and gestured her to come in and be seated on his unmade bed. “The whole situation reeked of a power play,” Melissa recalls. “I could just smell an embarrassing scene brewing. Even if no-one saw us, he’d have a juicy story to tell his cronies later.” Refusing to play his game, Melissa said, “I expected you to be ready for our meeting on time. I’ll come back in 20 minutes when you’re dressed.” When she returned, the man was fully clothed – and apologetic.
Think upper-class. Years ago, Cristina Ford (then married to Henry II) was at a White House dinner party when her strapless gown suddenly slipped down, baring her breasts. Unfazed, Cristina simply hiked up her dress and kept chatting as if nothing has happened. How could she remain so poised? It can only be explained in two words: social security. Richard Gross, a clinical psychologist explains: “The upper-classes are among the unembarrassables of the world. If your status is so high it can’t change and nobody can take it from you, you don’t get embarrassed.” So when someone tries to put you on the spot, imagine for a split second you’re Oprah Winfrey or The Sultan of Brunei; it may help.
Laugh it off. Often the best way out of an awkward dilemma is a quick wit and a good sense of humour. Gross, who has collected thousands of embarrassments stories, tells of Liz Carpenter (a White House staffer during the Johnson administration), who had written a book and was basking in the compliments of her peers when historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., (who’s been President Kennedy’s aide) walked up and said, “I like your book, Liz. Who wrote it for you?”Unembarrassed and not missing a beat, she replied, “I’m glad you like it, Arthur. who can read it to you?” Showing “grace under pressure” (which was Ernest Hemingway’s definition of guts) often truly is the best revenge.