Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

How to Stop Blushing

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This guide is for you if you tend to blush in any of these social situations:

  • When you make a social mistake
  • When you hear a naughty joke
  • When you talk to a cute guy or girl
  • When you talk to new people
  • When you’re angry or provoked[9]
  • When you hold a presentation
  • When you speak in public

1. Take pride in your chameleon-like superpower

When you’re openly showing that you know you’re a blusher, nobody can use it to hurt you.

Personally, I’m bald, I started balding at age 16. And I’ve always been the first to joke about it. You’d be awestruck by how brightly my baldness shines 😛

And that’s why you need to take ownership of your blushing. You blush easily, so what?

It’s not a big deal unless you make it so. (+ When you’re no longer ashamed of it, you will actually blush less.)

2. Make a joke about your blushing to get over your embarrassment

Here are 3 funny jokes about blushing you can use:

  1. Now you’ve seen my superpower. My face can turn redder than a tomato in any situation.
  2. Hey, look! You can warm your hands on my cheeks if you’re cold.
  3. You know why they call me the chameleon? I can turn red as a beet in a second!

When you make a joke about it first, you take control of your blushing so that nobody can make fun of you. And also, you stop being embarrassed by it because you’re no longer trying to hide it or suppress it. When you’re no longer embarrassed, you’ll also notice that you won’t blush as much.

3. Play along if people make fun of your blushing or messing up

One of the quickest ways to get people to shut up about you blushing or messing up is to play along with it. If they make a joke – acknowledge it and share a laugh about it.

Example of how to play along:

+ Haha, you look like a tomato!

– Yeah, my superpower is turning red in less than 1 second!

And then you will probably both share a laugh at your funny joke and then you move on with the conversation.

4. Play along sarcastically to shut down someone who is mean

When you don’t feel like laughing at your own expense, you can use a sarcastic shutdown.

Example of a sarcastic shutdown:

+ Haha, you look like a boiled lobster!

– Yeah, I look exactly like a boiled lobster when I blush. *poker face* (DON’T laugh here)

Showing that you heard their joke, but showing with your face and tone that it’s not funny takes the fun out of the joke. The other person will often feel stupid and stop laughing.

Click here to read more about how to deal with someone who makes fun of you.

5. Focus on the situation instead of your blushing when you blush

Normally, when you blush, you start to focus on how embarrassing the blushing is and that you want it to go away. This leads to a negative spiral:

You blush -> you get anxiety about the blushing -> you blush even more.

But when you instead focus on what you are doing at that moment, you break this spiral:

You blush -> you focus on the situation -> everything goes back to normal

Here’s a guide on how to practice focusing on the situation.

6. Use a breathing exercise to relax and reduce blushing

A simple exercise you can do in most situations:

  1. Breathe in deeply through your nose.
  2. Feel your belly fill up with air.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth. Purse your lips slightly when the air blows out.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Breathing exercises can help you stop focusing on your blushing. And when you’re not focused on your blushing, it will naturally go away.

Go here to learn more breathing exercises: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255

7. Seek out situations where you blush to stop caring about it

To stop caring about blushing, you need to “teach” your brain that it’s not a big deal. This is called habituation and it’s a well-researched method of removing fears, including blushing.

You can do this where you can find a safe place where you know you will blush, but it’s not too big of a deal if you do it.

Maybe introducing yourself at a networking mingle or some other type of social event where you meet new people you don’t care about. That way you can practice exposing yourself to blushing where you meet lots of people you don’t really care about.

8. Say to yourself what you would say to a friend who blushes

What would you tell a good friend who told you about that they easily blush?

Maybe something along the lines of this:

“I’m sorry you suffer so much from your blushing. But blushing is a human and normal reaction and I think it makes you more likable. I don’t think you need to hide your blushing because it’s a part of what makes you special.”

Speaking more like this to yourself is called self-compassion. It helps against blushing because it lessens self-critical thoughts, and self-critical thoughts often cause blushing because they make us hyper-aware of our social mistakes.[1]

9. Blushing is not as noticeable as you think

We tend to overestimate how visible our blushing is.[2, 4] In reality, blushing is not that noticeable, especially not for someone who doesn’t know you.

I’ve had clients excuse themselves because of their blushing when I’ve never even seen them blush. Blushing feels more noticeable than it is.

10. Others think blushing is either cute or they don’t care

The only person who thinks your blushing is a problem is usually yourself.

Blushing makes you seem more human and relatable and less intimidating. Most people think it’s cute and endearing and the rest don’t really care either way.

11. Medications can help get rid of chronic blushing and social anxiety

If nothing else helps, consult with a doctor about appropriate medications. There are some medications and other medical interventions that are effective against blushing:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353567

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/blushing-and-flushing

12. Coffee and alcohol can cause blushing

Alcohol[10, 12] and hot (not cold) coffee[11] are both common triggers for blushing. Avoiding them can help if you want to prevent facial blushing.

13. Blushing can help you make friends faster

Blushing can help you make friends faster because it makes you seem genuine and kind. It makes people forgive your mistakes and mess-ups easier when they see that you’re regretful thanks to your blushing.[13, 6, 5]

Blushing gives you many social advantages compared to not blushing.

14. Top 4 worst tips to avoid blushing

  1. Use makeup to hide your blushing
  2. Step out of the room/avoid the situation
  3. Distract people to look at something else
  4. Close your eyes for a minute

The reason tip 1-3 are so bad is that they are what’s called avoidant behaviors. Avoidant behaviors actually reinforce our fears because each time we avoid something we maintain or increase our fear of it.[3, 7]

Tip number 4 is bad because it’s impossible to use in a social setting without seeming super weird. You can’t just close your eyes and forget about your red cheeks in the middle of an embarrassing situation.

15. Need more help or advice?

Comment below and describe your situation and what your blushing-related problem is. I will 100% respond to the first 10 people commenting and give my best advice. Describe your problem as detailed as possible.

References:

  1. Buzzell, G. A., Troller-Renfree, S. V., Barker, T. V., Bowman, L. C., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Henderson, H. A., … & Fox, N. A. (2017). A neurobehavioral mechanism linking behaviorally inhibited temperament and later adolescent social anxiety. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(12), 1097-1105.
  2. Dijk, C., & de Jong, P. J. (2012, February). Blushing-fearful individuals overestimate the costs and probability of their blushing [Abstract]. Behaviour research and therapy, 50(2), 158–162. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796711002646
  3. Antony, MM, Stein, MB. Oxford handbook of anxiety and related disorders. New York: Oxford University Press; 2008.
  4. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.
  5. Crozier, W. R. (2007). In praise of blushing. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 6(1), 68-71.
  6. Keltner, D., Capps, L., Kring, A. M., Young, R. C., & Heerey, E. A. (2001). Just teasing: a conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychological bulletin, 127(2), 229.
  7. Piccirillo, M. L., Dryman, M. T., & Heimberg, R. G. (2016). Safety behaviors in adults with social anxiety: Review and future directions. Behavior therapy, 47(5), 675-687.
  8. Dijk, C., Voncken, M. J., & de Jong, P. J. (2009). I blush, therefore I will be judged negatively: influence of false blush feedback on anticipated others’ judgments and facial coloration in high and low blushing-fearfuls. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(7), 541-547.
  9. Drummond, P. D. (1999). Facial flushing during provocation in women. Psychophysiology, 36(3), 325-332.
  10. Mizoi, Y., Ijiri, I., Tatsuno, Y., Kijima, T., Fujiwara, S., Adachi, J., & Hishida, S. (1979). Relationship between facial flushing and blood acetaldehyde levels after alcohol intake. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 10(2), 303-311.
  11. Wilkin, J. K. (1981). Oral thermal-induced flushing in erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 76(1), 15-18.
  12. Suwaki, H., & Ohara, H. (1985). Alcohol-induced facial flushing and drinking behavior in Japanese men. Journal of studies on alcohol, 46(3), 196-198.
  13. Dijk, C., De Jong, P. J., & Peters, M. L. (2009). The remedial value of blushing in the context of transgressions and mishaps. Emotion, 9(2), 287.

Viktor is SocialPro's expert in communication and relationships.

He has a B.A. with a major in Psychology at University of Gothenburg and a B.Sc. with a major in Biological engineering at Chalmers University of Technology

Before he joined SocialPro, he worked as a relationship and dating coach.

Follow on Twitter or read more.

Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

Viktor is SocialPro's expert in communication and relationships.

He has a B.A. with a major in Psychology at University of Gothenburg and a B.Sc. with a major in Biological engineering at Chalmers University of Technology

Before he joined SocialPro, he worked as a relationship and dating coach.

Follow on Twitter or read more.

Viktor is SocialPro's expert in communication and relationships.

He has a B.A. with a major in Psychology at University of Gothenburg and a B.Sc. with a major in Biological engineering at Chalmers University of Technology

Before he joined SocialPro, he worked as a relationship and dating coach.

Follow on Twitter or read more.

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Comments (2)

  1. George Sanders

    This sounds good, informative, and professional. Was very helpful to me, seeing how I deal with some of these social behaviors as well. It had me thinking and wanting to try these steps out.

    • David Morin

      Glad to hear that George. Let me know how it goes if you try out any of the steps.