Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl review – why feeling awkward is good for us

This lively study explains how embracing embarrassing conversations or exposing situations can improve your life

I read part of this book in somebody else’s reserved seat on an overbooked train; do train companies have any idea of the anxiety they cause when they suddenly announce that all seat reservations are suspended? As each stop triggered another mortifying conversation about seats, the book explained what was going on in our brains to make the situation feel so painful, why that matters so much to us and what we can learn from it.

Melissa Dahl is an American science journalist who has been writing about psychology for 10 years, and her book, about the very specific phenomenon of awkwardness, “began as an attempt to permanently banish the feeling from my life with science!” Like all good scientists, though, she has changed her opinion based on the evidence she collected. Dahl now ...