Facing your fears: Expert tricks to treat the scary situations in your life
Snakes. Ghosts. Zombies and Vampires. Public speaking and meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
Our fears come in all shapes and sizes—some supernatural, and some as common as a presentation at work.
This Halloween, LifeSpeak would like to help you and your employees face the common but debilitating fears in your lives—armed, of course, with expert insights and practical strategies. We’ve compiled some expert tricks and treats to help you confront your fears with confidence.
Facing fears may not be fun, unless you’re an adrenaline seeker, but it’s essential to living your most fulfilling life. When we habitually avoid our fears, we teach our brains that we can’t overcome them. The goal is to gradually confront our fears until we become more comfortable with them, and they aren’t as scary.
In this article, vetted LifeSpeak experts address some spooky but harmless fears many of us struggle to overcome—and provide guidance on how to face them head-on.
Fear #1: Public Speaking
According to leadership expert and consultant Kevin Eikenberry, public speaking frequently ranks among people’s three biggest fears, along with snakes and death.
The problem is that (poisonous) snakes and death are obviously much more dangerous than public speaking. In fact, a fear of public speaking might hold us back from rewarding opportunities in our personal and professional lives, like giving a speech at a good friend’s wedding or delivering an important presentation at the office.
To prepare to speak publicly, Eikenberry says the first step is to think about what type of response you desire from your audience.
“What do I want my audience to do, say, or choose when I’m finished?” Eikenberry says. “Too many people, when they’re being a presenter, they’re focused on them, when really they need to be 100 percent focused on their audience. That’s the key.”
He encourages aspiring public speakers to start strong, even scripting the opening moments of the presentation. From there, he says it’s best to avoid reading off a slide, but rather to use slides or visual aids to support the message.
It’s not about delivering the perfect words but engaging with the audience, Eikenberry says.
Fear #2: Having Difficult Conversations
It’s common to dread having a difficult conversation with a friend, parent, or partner. As a result, the hardest part of having a difficult conversation is starting it.
Consultant Sarah Turl recommends sticking to a schedule when having difficult conversations. That way the conversation stays on track and both parties feel heard and understood.
To guide the process, Turl recommends four key steps:
- Break the ice. Don’t launch into accusations. Rather, start with a neutral tone. Consider stating that you’re nervous but happy to be having the conversation. Both parties are likely uncomfortable and sharing this kind of emotional information can help ease into the discussion. Don’t try to present a case but start by confirming the issue to make sure both parties are on the same page.
- Listen and ask questions. Many people instinctively want to jump in and argue why they are right. Rather, listen and try to understand the other side of the story. Resist the urge to jump in every time there’s a pause. Ask open-ended questions and make sure you understand the other person’s viewpoint.
- Share your perspective. Once the other person has finished, share your perspective. “We tend to mirror others’ behaviors, and if you are engaged in active, curious listening, they will want to do the same,” Turl says. Discuss the issue but don’t assume the other person intended to cause you harm.
- Explore solutions. This step isn’t about trying to win. It’s about trying to come together so both parties can move forward. Brainstorm and ask lots of questions. Try to frame possible solutions by thinking about “what it would look like if we…” Asking more questions can help keep the other person engaged if they become combative. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be hard, and sometimes it may take more than one difficult conversation to discover the right solution.
Fear #3: Resolving Conflict with a Manager
Now, an even scarier form of conflict: workplace conflict.
Certified mediator and retired lawyer Carole Soucis recommends identifying the issue you want to resolve before having a conversation with your manager.
Next, what’s the right approach? Is it best to have a direct conversation or a mediated one? Do you need coaching on how to approach the situation?
“We need to remember that the issue and constraints we have must be related,” Soucis says. “Link it back to our work objectives, to our mission. We need to think, what are those, and what is happening with the conflict here, and the impact on our work. And then approach and offer some options to our manager for the exchange and discussion.”
Soucis advises against placing blame. Instead, she recommends focusing on the concrete impact of the issue.
What is happening? How does it make you feel? This approach lets both sides express concerns and helps lead to an agreeable solution.
Looking for more expert wellbeing tips?
LifeSpeak isn’t just here to help you conquer your fears—we’re here to help you and your people proactively manage all the common mental health and wellbeing challenges you encounter.
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