Sunday, November 27, 2005

What exactly are you afraid of?

This past month, I've been working on the first 3 chapters of Stop Pushing Me Around: Chapter 1: Know Thyself; Chapter 2: Overcoming Fear and Developing Self Confidence; Chapter 3: How to Become Genuinely Curious.

For Chapter 2, I need your help. I’d like to include examples of the real fears and irrational thoughts people have about speaking up and promoting themselves.

For example, if you’re afraid of rejection, what is the scenario you imagine in which people reject you. Write it out for me. (I will only consider using it if you want me to. Mostly, it's for research. So let me know if you want me to use it in the book.)

As a bonus, I’ve also posted the recipe for the yummy gingerbread I make for the holidays.


Blogger Chris said...


Thanks to Neil T., I came across your blog and would like to leave a few comments for your book.

I think my fear of rejection is probably the most difficult for me to overcome. As an artist, my personality is to please others and I think other creatives would agree.

Every creative's main goal should be to communicate a message to the audience. And within that goal, I personally believe we creatives also want the "oo" and "ahh" of our abilities to stand out just as much as the message.

For instance, I have this fear that I'm not explaining myself enough to a client. So I will tend to babble on, all the while, my client isn't understanding what I'm trying to convey to him/her. If I'm in the creative business and need to communicate my client's message, how are they going to perceive my ability to do so if I can't even convey my own message?

11:06 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

For me, fears and irrational thoughts go way back to when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I wasn’t a particularly popular kid in elementary school. As a matter of fact, I was pretty much a geek - the last kid picked for the team during recess and such. As luck would have it, that all changed in 7th grade. During a fellow student’s birthday party all the girls found out I could dance. Bingo! I was popular. None the less, the childhood behaviors and feelings of inferiority were still there in the back of my brain, just waiting for an opportunity.

Fast-forward to art school, where I did pretty darn well. When I finished up at school, I felt like I was God’s gift to the world of visual communications. I’d call anybody. As a matter of fact, I rang up the photography buyer at J. Walter Thompson one fine day, just for the heck of it and I landed a meeting. I lived in Fort Lauderdale at the time, so, portfolio in hand, I hopped in the car and took off for Manhattan. I didn’t land a gig, but just getting the appointment, fresh out of art school, bolstered my already over-inflated ego.

Over the next several years, life and reality happened. To my dismay, I found I wasn’t God’s gift. I was just another photographer pounding the pavement. I ended up switching over to graphic design (my minor in school) because I couldn’t find enough work. The feelings of inferiority started to creep up to the foreground of my brain.

Along the way in my 20s & 30s I had successes and I had failures. When I won some awards or landed a big deal gig, I was God’s gift again. When things went South, I felt like a worthless git and withdrew into my hole.

At some point I had a flash of clarity. I was defining my entire self through my work and other people’s opinions. Bad idea. That resulted in an emotional roller coaster ride. As we grow up and hopefully mature, we come to realize we have good qualities and some that aren’t so hot. That’s the reality. Although we should always strive to learn and grow as a human being, I found it’s important to accept who we are if we’re to be comfortable living in our own skins.

Over time, I’ve learned that I can’t be all things to all people, nor should I try. I’m more than just a layout or logo design. I’m more than my bank account balance. There are those folks who will like me and value what I bring to the table and there are those who won’t and vice versa. So, now I focus on being me and finding those people who mesh with my personality and value my service. That’s given me the ability to talk to people without the fears of rejection. If they aren’t interested or don’t see my value, fine. I wish them well and move on.

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rejection is the classic response, but I think it's the spotlight. No one likes being put on the spot which is what a sales call is all about. It comes down to the fear of not being able to sell, defend, or justify your existence. It's an emotional, not rational, response that drives the fear.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to find myself staring at a list of phone numbers with a pounding heart and frozen brain. I'm helpless without a script, and even then I tend to speak too fast, leaving my contact asking, "Now what's that again?"

I think I'm afraid of infuriating the person on the other end of the line...of coming off like a telemarketer trying to hawk windows & siding. I have visions of these folks saying, at best, "Leave me alone!" and slamming down the phone. At worst, I have fears of them reading me the riot act for 30 minutes.

I also find it interesting that 75% of the respondents here are creatives. I doubt it's "just me," but I find that I have a harder time defining and broadcasting my own message that that of a client. And I'm in total agreement with Chris..."how are they going to perceive my ability to do so if I can't even convey my own message?"

Indeed. And how do you successfully convey VISUAL communication...over the phone?


9:20 AM  
Blogger Lisa J. Lehr said...

I don't have a problem with making phone calls per se. I just picture myself dressed in a suit, sitting at a big mahogany desk with several phone lines and an assistant or two. And I try to sound like that person on the phone, so the "callee" will picture me that way too--a successful person who doesn't need their business.

But I hate spending the time on phone calls because I've never gotten any clients that way. I cross off my week's list "make 100 phone calls" and all I get for it are a sore back and a sore throat from sitting still so long and talking so much.

There just has to be a better way to get clients (one that works).

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Stuart said...

I have had a subconscious rule that "I must always be scrupulously honest about my capabilities and accomplishments." I don't know exactly where the rule came from, but sometime early in my life it became one of my ways of dealing with situations that felt threatening in some way.

I've learned that other people have created similar rules for themselves, and have run into difficulties promoting themselves or selling whenever they felt they were over-simplifying or being immodest.

This rule did not prevent me from talking to people, but it certainly didn't help me to create powerful conversations.

I've learned to transform this kind of subconscious rule into a flexible guideline by recognizing that I CANNOT always be scrupulously honest, (whatever that means). But I can sometimes be scrupulously honest about my abilities and accomplishments, such as when there is a specific fact in question, and the answer has the potential to help or harm someone, and I have a clear knowledge of what I really contributed or know how to contribute.

This transformation has relieved me of the burden of over-explaining myself when my intention is merely to create a conversation that opens up new ideas for someone.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my fear is being too unknowledgeable. Right now, that's probably a good fear as I'm only still a beginning student copywriter. But in any subject area that goes.

One of the things fueling that fear for me is that I've never been able to even think up questions to ask. I don't know why I can't, it just is.

Also, it's always seemed to me that I first have to know a little about the subject in order to ask a question. When others ask questions I think to myself "Why didn't I think of that?". In hindsight it all seems so easy but I've never been able to overcome it.

I'm still drifting around in limbo space. Perhaps one day...NO, not one day, today I'll start to improve. (Now the next part is figuring out how to improve.) :)

1:45 AM  
Blogger Richard Fouts said...

I was responsible for both sales and delivery when I was a business unit manager for a professional services firm. Some of my delivery people (and for some reason it was designers more than software developers or business strategists) hated going on sales calls. Some of them actually begged me to not "make them sell."

After probing around, the source of their fear came back to objections. I tried talking to people on a rational level, explaining that they were the expert and that they were fully prepared to manage objections. But it didn't fully work. They simply did not want to be put on the spot.

People in creative field have a process but non-creative types have difficulty understanding it. And they find defending it demeaning and degrading. Who wouldn't fear this situation?

So, it comes down to the classic fight of flight syndrome that has been a characteristic of the human DNA since life began. My creative types chose flight.

Mind/Body researcher, Herbert Benson has spent more than 35 years studying stress and neuroscience. He is best known for his 1975 bestseller, The Relaxation Response where he initially exaplained the complex physiologic interplay between stress and relaxation.

He suggests business people look at the high cost of stress to their businesses to understand why it's so important. Check out his book or is latest Different Voice interview in the November 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review.

6:46 AM  
Blogger John Charles Steinmuller said...

Cold calling for me has not always been easy. I've been in the Sales and Marketing game for 30 years but overcame my fear by being curious. The call is easy to do when I get curious about the prospect or customer. I'm curious about what they think, why they use what they use, and who they are. When I shift the focus on them and not on me, the fear went away....(oh, they just can't see my palms are sweating)...John

1:24 PM  

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