Fear is one of our most powerful emotions. Fear protects us. Fear channeled properly can motivate us to move forward. But when we allow it to take over, fear shuts us down and our ability to communicate clearly.
When stressed, our bodies become flooded with powerful hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which speed up our heart and increase blood flow. In the early days of human evolution, when our biggest threats were largely physical — a tiger or bear that might tear us limb-from-limb — these chemicals coursing through our bodies gave us the extra strength and energy to either fight our enemy or run from it.
In our business and personal lives, we face threats of a more psychological nature, like the high-pressure job interview or a high-stakes conflict with a spouse or friend. When we feel threatened or scared because our boss is distressed that we missed a deadline, or when a friend is angry, hormones kick in, and our fear, uncertainty, and doubt grow.
If we don’t know how to tame fear, it paralyzes us. Worse yet, others can use fear to manipulate. In fact, the phrase fear, uncertainty, and doubt, or the FUD Factor, is a sales and marketing reference used heavily by software and computer companies, as well as other companies, to scare people into buying a product.
Messages that Hit the Lizard Brain
Allstate Insurance used the FUD Factor when it created the “Mayhem” character. In one commercial, the character, his face wrapped in bandages, is driving his car away from a sports stadium. He says he’s a referee who made a controversial call during a football game and upset fans chase him. He drives wildly through a residential neighborhood taking out an innocent homeowner’s white picket fence, flowerbeds, and lawn. Then the actor tells you that if you have another company’s cut-rate insurance, you’ll end up paying for this “mayhem.”
The message goes right to your lizard brain — the part designed to keep you safe. This part of our brain will override our more rational side every time because we are wired for self-preservation.
Get Beyond Self Doubt
On a personal level, our own internal salesperson preys on our deepest fears and doubts. Interviews with high-achieving people, such as actress Meryl Streep and marketing guru Seth Godin, all reveal that each has doubts about their success. But they don’t let fears or doubts hold them back. They learn to listen to them, then push them down and move forward. They channel their fears to keep fighting rather than to run away from opportunity and possibility.
Exhibiting fear can undermine your value in the eyes of others because they perceive it as a lack of confidence. If during a consultation with a surgeon, his palms are sweaty and he seems nervous about your upcoming kidney transplant, would you want him operating on you? Probably not. If you are in a job interview and you are shaking and your voice is thin, you will be projecting anxiety and likely will turn off the hiring manager.
Quash Fear with Your Action and Mindset
The best way to squash fear is to take action.
When you look at any high-stakes situation through the Prism of Value, you focus on the good you can bring to the situation and/or how you might alleviate what is bad. And when you use this frame, you build confidence to shield you from any psychological spears thrown inside your head.
The messages we repeatedly communicate to ourselves about ourselves can fuel our fears or can help us conquer them.
Angel investor, author, and inspirational speaker Tim Ferriss notes, “The best results in life are often held back by false constructs and untested assumptions.” Applying the Prism of Value to ourselves to change the conversation in our own heads can help us wrestle our fears to the ground. It won’t banish them, but by shifting our perspective, we can harness our energy to move forward to success.
Thinking about situations where you have been stressed, what are the conversations going on in your head? What are those fears? What do you think will happen?