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Confronting a Loved One's Embarrassing Behaviour

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 12 Jan 2011 | comments*Discuss
Loved One Friend Relative Embarrassing

Relatives and friends can often act in ways that make you want to cringe. From laughing too loud to telling inappropriate jokes, wearing questionable clothing to using questionable vocabulary, everyday loved ones engage in behaviour that can embarrass you. If you find yourself dealing with embarrassment consistently created by a loved one, look for a pattern in their behaviour. Alert your loved one to your embarrassment and suggest ways in which you’d like to help him or her moved past these actions. You might not be able to change a loved one, but you are always entitled to give him or her your opinion.

Look for a Behavioural Pattern

Loved ones who engage in embarrassing behaviour may not even realise they are doing so. This doesn’t mean that their behaviour is any more correct just because they don’t know it to be embarrassing, but it does mean that you will need to make them aware of their patterns if you wish to confront them. Try to make a note of:
  • Incidents of the same embarrassing behaviour
  • Who was around to witness (or be offended by) the behaviour
  • How the behaviour made you feel.
  • Why you believe the behaviour was inappropriate for the situation.
  • Evidence of others’ embarrassment at the behaviour (looks, comments, body language, etc).
  • Suggestions of how the situation could have gone differently with different behaviour.

Alert a Loved One to Your Embarrassment

If you do decide to confront a loved one about his or her behaviour, remember to keep the focus on yourself. This will keep your loved one from feeling attacked, though it also means (s)he can easily blame your embarrassment on you and your thin skin, poor sense of humour or other perceived flaw. Counter such attacks by:
  • Acknowledging that (s)he is correct, your sense of humour did not match the behaviour.
  • Pointing out that others did not find the behaviour charming/funny/appropriate either.
  • Explaining why you found his or her behaviour embarrassing.
  • Asking him or her if (s)he meant any malice with the behaviour you found embarrassing.
  • Suggesting that hurt may have been caused even if none was intended.
  • Offering to help him or her move beyond these behaviour in the future.

Help a Loved One Cease Embarrassing Behaviour

Helping a loved one cease embarrassing behaviour should never be an empty gesture. If you offer to help your friend or relative in a specific area then be ready to do so as needed. This will require you to invest both time and energy into your loved one, whether it be to help him or her pick out a new wardrobe, learn more about a particular culture or check him or herself in social situations. This will likely be a rocky road, but if a loved one sincerely asks for help then you must be ready to do more than just point out embarrassing behaviour. In this situation if you aren’t a part of solution then you will most likely remain a part of the problem.

Confronting a loved one’s embarrassing behaviour can be awkward for all involved, but if you don’t do it then more hurt and embarrassment could flourish in the future. Look for a pattern of behaviour from your loved one and alert him or her to it with your accumulated facts. Then offer to help your loved one move beyond the behaviour so that you can both enjoy your time together more with fewer worries about causing or taking offence.

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