At First Blush

Posted by: Lindsey Gerdes on June 02

As a young professional, I (like many of us) have worried about coming across as mature and capable. I’ve written about wearing power suits in situations in which I felt particularly uncomfortable, whether the occasion called for it or not.

But there’s one thing I’ve never been able to overcome—my tendency to blush—whether I’m meeting somebody new, standing up to give a presentation, or asking a question in a crowded lecture hall. I turn a dark shade of crimson every single time.

It's partially due to my extremely fair complexion and perhaps also related to my initial discomfort at being thrown into new situations. Whatever the case, I've always considered this a nervous tic that I wished I could get rid of; a sort of poker tell that gave away my nervousness.

That's why I was somewhat intrigued--and encouraged--to read a New York Times article today about the positive aspects of blushing. I didn't even realize there were any! But according to writer Benedict Carey, blushing helps establish a sort of connection with others and sometimes actually diffuses awkward social situations:

..A blush is far more than a stigmata of embarrassment. It is a crucial signal in social interactions--one that functions more often to smooth over betrayals and blunders than to amplify them.

In a series of recent studies, psychologists have found that reddening cheeks soften others' judgements of bad or clumsy behavior, and help to strengthen social bonds rather than strain them. If nothing else, the new findings should take some of the personal sting out of the facial fire shower when it inevitably hits.

Whether or not there's any truth to this argument, the writer did bring up a useful point for nervous young professionals. Don't waste your time feeling self-conscious about a trait that's largely out of your control..and even try to use it to your advantage if at all possible.

Reader Comments

michael murphy

June 22, 2009 12:30 PM

I used to feel uncomfortable in new situations at work all the time. I even had a supervisor who would intentionally talk to me at the urinal in an attempt to mess with me.

I started going out to bars and clubs alone, and didn't drink. It subjected me to a lot of social pressure, which I got used to. Most people who go out go either with lots of friends, or drink, or both to make themselves comfortable.

Going out to akward social situations at night made me virtually immune to social pressure. I laugh at it. In more than one occasion this has helped at work. It's basically impossible for people I work with to affect me. Pretty awesome huh.

michael murphy

June 22, 2009 12:30 PM

I used to feel uncomfortable in new situations at work all the time. I even had a supervisor who would intentionally talk to me at the urinal in an attempt to mess with me.

I started going out to bars and clubs alone, and didn't drink. It subjected me to a lot of social pressure, which I got used to. Most people who go out go either with lots of friends, or drink, or both to make themselves comfortable.

Going out to akward social situations at night made me virtually immune to social pressure. I laugh at it. In more than one occasion this has helped at work. It's basically impossible for people I work with to affect me. Pretty awesome huh.

jasmine willson

July 30, 2009 06:53 AM

Congrats to you and your supportive spouse - I enjoy reading your article and find it really truth whatever write you in your article for the "At first blush" i am very impress this article your thinking .
Keep up the great work!

Regards
jasmine willson
http://www.resumeobjectiveexamples.net/

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Read daily reports and special features from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Lindsey Gerdes and Louis Lavelle about companies, careers, and other topics of interest to young professionals.

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