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People Share the Worst Second-Hand Embarrassment They’ve Ever Experienced

There are generally three types of people when it comes to responding to an embarrassing situation. There are the people who rush to the person’s aid to see if they can help in some way, there are the ones who cannot contain their laughter, and then there are the rest of us who prefer to pretend we didn’t see it in the hopes that it might in some way lessens the person’s humiliation. This is because in situations where we witness someone do or say something uncomfortable or foolish, many of us, particularly empathetic people, experience ‘second-hand embarrassment’ or ‘vicarious embarrassment.’ Interestingly, witnessing this ‘social pain’ activates the same neural pathways of our brain that also respond when we see someone sustain a physical injury! The more empathetic you are, and easily able to put yourself in the shoes of other, the stronger you are likely to experience second-hand embarrassment.

Ever wondered how empathetic you are? Check out these cringe-worthy stories from Reddit and see it they make you recoil in third-hand embarrassment!

I was selling some kettlebells on Facebook marketplace and a woman, early 40’s maybe, bought them.

She came to pick them up and as I handed them over to her, she obviously wasn’t expecting them to be as heavy as they were, and as she suddenly strained to counter the weight, she ripped the most extreme of farts you have ever heard. It was gargantuan. I was shocked, but also proud.

I’m usually pretty good at making light of any situation but I found myself speechless for the first time in my life. If I could, I would’ve returned serve but even on my best day I don’t believe I could create such a symphony.

We both kind of stared into each other’s eyes and she said “well…” and turned around and walked off.

I think about her often. (No-Difficulty_3203)


A kid in my highschool wore a toga to school for toga day. Except he got the day wrong. So he just showed up, half naked and wrapped in a sheet when no one else was dressed up. (makeupisthedevil)

A new guy started at work and a couple of us were standing around just bullshitting. A lady that also works there who is fairly rough around the edges walks by and the new guy looks at other guy we were chatting with and states “Damn. I feel bad for her husband”. It was her husband we were talking to. (Mitzeras)

We were at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Every night they had this common area where folks could do karaoke. A middle-aged gentleman got up and started the first few lines of Lionel Richies’ “Easy”. Some random lady from the audience ran up and attempted to sing the song with the gentleman. He kindly pushed her away two or three times as she tried to sing over his shoulder into the microphone. Finally, she just stood there dejected…swaying from side to side like an idiot – as the man broke from his song and professed his love for his girlfriend – and wrapped up with a marriage proposal.

They hugged, they kissed…the idiot girl went back to her seat.

I will still never understand why that guy chose THAT song to use to propose. However, he was killing the vocals! (reddittttttttttt)


A long time ago I worked at an airport where we had an office with a big glass tinted window through which we could watch the passengers and arrival hall goings on.

Three of us were sitting at the window doing paperwork, we were all so extremely tired after a long shift when one of the guys I worked with took a glance out and spotted one of our co-workers he didn’t like through the window. He proceeded to tell us the most vicious rant…’ Look at that fat so and so, etc. etc, looks like a warthog, just on and on with the most descriptive insults.

Turns out, I guess bring so tired, he had spotted her reflection in the window and she was actually standing behind us. It was just us three and her in the room. I beep beep beeped reversed out of that room so quick. (SteveSaudade)

Was at dinner party when my friend’s mother in law asked another one of our friends when her baby was due. She wasn’t pregnant. Anyway, MIL should have simply apologized, but instead doubles down with something to the effect of “it sure looks like you’re pregnant.” (Beneficial-Salt-6773)

I worked retail during COVID. This family would come in, normal looking , mom in her forties, two middle school kids. Except for the dad, who wore a Halloween Mike Meyers mask with tape over the mouth and SLAVE written in “blood” across the forehead. Then they would just…shop…but his wife and kids looked like they wanted the sweet release of death every second. (catalfalque)


A colleague of mine put in his two weeks. For context, he’s a fairly attractive man.

Well, this woman from HR (of all places) comes by his cubicle to, uh, wish him well, I guess? Anyway, she basically gives him a lap dance right there in front of the whole office. (Buckus93)


During the more peak of COVID, my son’s high school had his open house virtually. Usually you walk your kid’s schedule, but this one you hopped into the different zoom streams per class period. Anyway, people are joining and the teacher is saying hi to people online. One parent says “hey <kid with very distinctive first name, we’ll say Bozo>, is Mr. Johnson the teacher you said you hated?”. Teacher played dumb…then he got started. He’s talking about the honors track for his subject and shares he’s the main course instructor for 2 years. That same parent pipes up “oh man Bozo, you’re stuck with the teacher you hate for YEARS!!!” (Basic-Ad9270)

I went to an open house and there was this older realtor helping the listing agent. He was excitedly walking around this empty house talking about features while looking back at my husband and I and he ran head first into the chandelier that would be positioned over a dining room table had one been there. It happened so quick we couldn’t even warn him.

He got tangled in it and ripped it down as he fell face first to the ground, cutting himself up badly in the process.

We both still cringe thinking about it. We saw him out at the supermarket recently and both whispered “oh nooooooo.” (whatsnewpikachu)

Do you experience second-hand embarrassment? What situation made you cringe om someone else’s behalf?

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Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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