Written by Sean McPheat |
Fear is one of the most debilitating emotions a human being can experience. It can stop you emotionally and physically from carrying out even mundane tasks, depending on the level of fear experienced.
Being fearful is not something that can normally be instantly put aside. If you’re really concerned about an upcoming meeting, where you feel you may be put on the spot, or you haven’t prepared enough for, someone telling you that ‘it’s ok, everything will be alright’ isn’t actually very helpful, because the person suffering knows that the opposite will probably be true.
Psychologists tell us that fear is a protection mechanism that the brain employs when it realises it faces a dangerous, difficult or pain-inducing position. Wikipedia’s approach is ‘Fear may occur in response to a specific stimulus happening in the present, or to a future situation, which is perceived as risk to health or life, status, power, security, or in the case of humans wealth or anything held valuable. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis.’
The fear-triggering memory or stimulus can make us appear nervous wrecks in front of decision-makers. But remembering that it is there for a purpose should help us as salespeople in coping with the situations we have to face. If you also remember that FEAR could stand for False Expectation Appearing Real, it could help you approach that situation with a little less trepidation.
What can you do if you face a situation that makes you fearful? NHS Choices give us some tips on how to deal with those types of situations. Here are just a few:
1. What’s The Worst That Can Happen?
When you’re anxious about something, it can help to think through what the worst end result could be. Even if a presentation, a call or a meeting goes horribly wrong, chances are that you and the world will survive. Sometimes the worst that can happen is a panic attack.
If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it. Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Placing the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathing slowly and deeply (no more than 12 breaths a minute) helps soothe the body.
It may take a while, but eventually the panic will go away on its own. The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.
2. Get Real
Fears tend to be much worse than reality. Often, sales people who have been rejected feel that it will happen on every call, but with proper preparation, it may not happen that way again. Similarly, people sometimes tell themselves they’re a failure because they don’t hit their targets every campaign. This then makes them feel pretty bad. But when you recognise these fears are normal, the anxiety often goes away.
3. Don’t Expect Perfection
Black-and-white perfectionist thinking such as, “If I’m not the best salesperson in my company, I’m a failure,” could be unrealistic and only set us up for anxiety.
Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s essential to remember that life is messy.
4. Go Back To Basics
A good sleep, a good meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety. The easiest way to fall asleep when worries are spiralling through the mind can be to stop trying to nod off. Instead, try to stay awake.
Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-treat anxiety with the idea that it will make them feel better, but these only make nervousness worse. On the other hand, eating well will make you feel great physically and mentally.
5. Reward Yourself
Give yourself a treat. When you’ve met that decision-maker from hell or made that call you’ve been dreading, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a country walk, a concert, a meal out, a book, a DVD, or whatever little gift makes you happy. You will associate this success with overcoming the fear, so next time you brain will concentrate on how well you did last time and help you to look forward to the situation next time.
It may be that your fears are actually hindering your sales success and causing more problems than these five ideas could solve. In those cases, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been successful in helping people overcome fear. Because fear is more complex than just forgetting or deleting memories, an active and successful approach involves people repeatedly confronting their fears. By confronting their fears—in a safe manner—a person can suppress the fear-triggering memory or stimulus.
Above all, don’t think that you are alone in having fears. Every human being, no matter how confident they appear, will have fears, so be aware that they can be overcome with the right strategies and approaches.
Originally published: 23 October, 2014