Imagine your job is on the line and you're about to walk into the most important meeting of your life. You're about to present a project you've been working on for the past year to the head of the company and you have to wow her. Depending on what happens during this meeting, you could get promoted or fired. You walk into the room and confidently approach to shake her hand. But as you cross you trip over a chair, face-plant into the carpet, and fall into your boss, all while splitting your skirt.
Embarrassing, right? So embarrassing, when you stand up and collect yourself to apologize, you're probably going to be blushing. In fact, your face may have even gotten warm just reading the scenario above, but blushing isn't always tied to feelings of embarrassment. We're sensitive when it comes to blushing, so much so that it can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever been talking in a group of people and someone blushes slightly, then gets even redder when someone points out that they're blushing? Blushing happens, and it's a natural, reflexive response to your perception of how others are perceiving you. It's a signal you know you’ve done something wrong and a sort of apology, which can serve you well.
Studies indicate that people tend to view those who blush after doing something embarrassing in a more positive light than those who don't. Because of this, some researchers theorize that blushing may be nature's way of asking for forgiveness. In the April 2009 issue of the Journal Emotion, psychologists Corine Dijk, Peter de Jong, and Madelon Peters published a study revealing possible social values of blushing. Participants viewed short video clips showing an actor committing either a social transgression or a mishap. Researchers then showed participants photographs of the actor's face with either a neutral expression or showing shame and either blushing or not blushing, and asked them to rate the actor on a number of qualities. The authors of the study found that actors who showed shame and blushed were rated more favorably than those who did not. They also found that participants rated the actors with a neutral, blushing expression similarly to those with a shamed, non-blushing expression.
What does this mean to you? Even though it sounds funny to say, you shouldn't be ashamed of blushing. In fact, if you work in customer service, blushing can signal upset customers that you're genuinely contrite, making them more forgiving of any oversight. Without a word, your co-workers and boss will know you that you know you've messed up. You won't have to convince people you've learned your lesson, they'll know it just by looking at your face. So the next time you feel your face turn red, don't think of it as blushing, think of it as showing your true colors!