This can be one of the most powerful questions, in a coaching situation.
The answers can illuminate a whole host of limitations that are holding a person back, although, often, it's initially met with a degree of suspicion. There are the women that will insist that they're not afraid of anything (which is rarely the case, although they may believe it), some that have a list of fears as long as your arm, and all manner of variations in between.
Sitting down on a Skype coaching call last week, I saw horror on my client's face at the question. "I'm not scared!" she told me defensively. Yet, I could hear her, quite clearly, talking herself out of the networking lunch she had booked onto, in order to begin bringing in more business.
"I just don't think I can go in there and sell myself", she told me eventually, after 5 minutes or so of further probing. "What if no one wants to talk to me? What if they hate my business?"
A natural introvert, she preferred to spend her time working from home, hidden behind her computer, but she knew that her marketing efforts were plateauing and that the face to face interaction was her best opportunity to move things forward. So, here she was, a few days before the meeting, and she was beginning to make herself ill. "When I think about it, my stomach starts churning and my voice shakes. What if my voice shakes when I'm talking to people?" Well, what if it does?
The fact is, that the first time in a new situation can be incredibly nerve racking but, frankly, it's all a big fake lie we tell ourselves. I told her that, if her voice shook when she was talking, then the person she was talking to would either notice that her voice was shaking or would not. They would then make some assumptions about her, based on the shaking voice, or would not. "But what will happen? What will they think of me? I could ruin my reputation!" Ok, ideally she would walk into this first networking meeting and nail it but, realistically, having never been in such a situation before, it was entirely acceptable that something might not go to plan. And all of the confidence training in the world, is no substitute for getting into the thick of things.
So, I highlighted to her that, with these people, she had no reputation to ruin. That she could meet people at the event, and make successful connections, or not, and still be fine. I told her I had no idea what they would think if she was outwardly nervous, since I'm not a mind-reader, and I reminded her that she wasn't either, but we explored some of the options nonetheless. We talked about how all of the people, at the event, at some point were brand new to the networking circuit. They were once nervous newbies too. We considered that they might find it endearing, or irritating and that, really, she had no way of knowing and that, in all honesty, it wasn't her concern anyway. Her primary concern was to get in there, grow her ability to handle such situations and, hopefully, make some connections. I told her to see the latter as a bonus, and to actually use the event as a "dry run" to build her confidence.
"So, I'm not going there to make connections then? In that case I might as well not bother." she insisted defeatedly. I told her that, if it was too overwhelming, then yes, she should stop concerning herself with making connections. "Just get in there and meet people, if they don't like you, their loss. If they do, great!"
Using some NLP methods, we worked on reducing her anxiety so that she could at least quell the fear enough to face it and, by the end of the call, she was calmer, and we signed off with a promise that she'd get back to me with an update after the event. She was still worrying over making the best impression, but I assured her she had nothing to worry about, and the message I received afterwards says it all...
So, the reason I'm sharing this with you, is to demonstrate that, often, we allow fear to stop us from doing what we really know we must do, in the pursuit of our goals, and as a result our goals never come to fruition. If my client had talked herself out of that event, she would never have realised that she was beyond capable and that, actually, there was nothing in that room that was truly dangerous.
Now, I have no doubt that when her next networking session comes around, she'll be anxious again, but it'll be a little less than this time, and she'll get into the swing of it much quicker. And I know she'll be nervous about following up with these new connections, but at least they're available to her now, and I can help her to take the necessary actions to make that happen too.
So why not leave a comment below and let me know what you're afraid of? What have you let stop you in the past? Or, tell me about a time when you faced down your fears, and overcame your own self-doubt.
I'd really love to hear from you, I read every comment personally and I will respond to as many as possible.
P.S. Need help to develop the confidence to go for it? Then join my free webinar, on the 11th Feb, and learn how to become completely unstoppable! Sign up today at bit.ly/3confhacks