5 common habits you didn't realise were embarrassing

  • Embarrassing habits can be subtle, and you may not even realise you’re embarrassing yourself.
  • Learning to listen to others and to ask questions rather than doing all the talking is crucial to avoiding embarrassing behaviours, according to management consultant and professor Ben Baran.
  • Here are five things you may be doing every day that you didn’t know were embarrassing.

You want a friend to tell you if you have spinach stuck in your teeth or your fly is down. Those potentially embarrassing moments are easily fixable and quickly forgotten once they’re taken care of. We might not be so receptive, on the other hand, to hearing that the way we behave every day is something we should be embarrassed about.

Ben Baran, a management consultant and assistant professor of management atCleveland State University, specialises in spotting these behaviours in the workplace and helping people change and grow.

If you recognise yourself in any of the examples below, embrace the embarrassment. Baran said it will move you to change.

1. Taking all the credit

fizkes/ShutterstockOutside of work, exaggerating accomplishments might impress a first date or a new friend. Once the person gets to know you, it becomes a turnoff.

It may seem like a good strategy to take credit for an achievement that should be shared with your team – or isn’t yours at all. “That might get you somewhere in the short run,” Baran said, but it quickly turns into a negative. “The key thing to remember when you’re a manager is that it’s not all about you.”

Outside of work, exaggerating accomplishments might impress a first date or a new friend. Once the person gets to know you, it becomes a turnoff.

To get people on your side, Baran said, it’s important to remember that “everyone loves to have other people care about their well-being and care about their contributions.”

2. Engaging in personal conflict

Flickr/elisasizzle/Attribution licenceIt’s OK to disagree with coworkers and friends, but how you express your differences matters.

“Any team that values consensus over candor is going to be underperforming,” Baran said. It’s OK to disagree with coworkers and friends, but how you express your differences matters.

Baran makes a distinction between personal conflict and constructive conflict. When you engage in personal conflict, the unspoken message is that there is something wrong with the other person (“I think you’re lazy and have nothing good to say”). In constructive conflict, you acknowledge the value of the other person’s perspective while expressing your differences (“I think you’re a good person and have things to contribute.”)

The same principle applies in personal relationships. In Baran’s experience, if you can add, “I love and respect you,” to a disagreement with a family member or spouse, you’ll often find the other person more receptive to your views. And you’re less likely to say something you’ll regret.

3. Oversharing

adriaticfoto/ShutterstockWe don’t always notice when we’re oversharing, but others do.

Maybe you think of yourself as an honest person, a real open book. But does the person in the cubicle next to you really want a play-by-play of your gall-bladder surgery? Your yoga buddy probably doesn’t want to hear every detail of last night’s argument with your boyfriend, especially since she’s heard it all before.

We don’t always notice when we’re oversharing, but others do. If you’re prone to oversharing, your friends and coworkers are probably giving you clues (or ducking into an empty office when they see you coming).

“When someone’s talking to us, oftentimes we’re just thinking about what we want to say next, versus truly listening when they talk,” Baran said. He encourages active listening and asking questions, rather than monopolizing the conversation.

4. Making assumptions based on external attributes

Flickr/Apps for Europe/Attribution licenceAsk questions to make sure you understand before responding.

As conversations about discrimination based on race and gender have become more prominent, it’s a good time to consider whether your actions display embarrassing assumptions about those who may come from a different background than you.

“We make ourselves look like jerks when we assume we know what someone means,” Baran said. This is particularly important when you interact with someone whose life experience might be quite unlike yours.

Baran suggests active listening, which means asking questions to make sure you understand before you respond.

5. Not living by the Platinum Rule

If you’re the only person in your organisation who sends emails filled with emojis, that’s probably embarrassing, not cute. “I think it’s very important for people to try to notice what other people are doing,” Baran said.

To help avoid embarrassment, he suggests following thePlatinum Rule, a variation of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule encourages us to treat others as we would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule, which Baran picked up from organizational psychologistBill Gentry, says we should treat others astheywould like to be treated.

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