When I see a guy em­bar­rass­ing him­self, why am I the one who’s cring­ing?

Men's Health (South Africa) - - ASK MH -

RYAN, BOKSBURG Be­cause you’re an evolved, em­pa­thetic soul, Ryan. This is so com­mon that it ac­tu­ally has a name: vi­car­i­ous em­bar­rass­ment. Peo­ple who de­scribe them­selves as es­pe­cially em­pa­thetic feel it more in­tensely, says re­la­tion­ship ex­pert Sherry Amaten­stein. Here’s what’s hap­pen­ing in your brain while some­one flubs their pre­sen­ta­tion: two re­gions linked to em­pa­thy with an­other per­son’s phys­i­cal pain prob­a­bly be­come ac­ti­vated, a study in PLoS One sug­gests. This tends to hap­pen whether the guy knows he’s screw­ing up or not, the re­search shows. Part of the cringe re­flex (we made that term up) is that you can imag­ine your­self in the same sit­u­a­tion. “We’re all afraid of mak­ing un­in­ten­tional fools of our­selves,” Amaten­stein says, “so when you wit­ness it hap­pen­ing, it’s like feel­ing your­self fall­ing and be­ing un­able to stop it.” Your blush­ing and sweat­ing means you ei­ther feel bad for the poor guy, or you’re con­cerned for your­self. No-one has to know which.

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