Do you feel comfortable delivering bad news? Do you look forward to speaking in public? Do you enjoy networking? Is it easy for you to speak your mind and be assertive with friends and colleagues? If you answered no to any of these questions, the excerpt below from Reach: A New Strategy to Help you Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence is meant for you.
According to Andy Molinsky, an expert on behavior in the business world, there are five key challenges underlying our avoidance tendencies: authenticity, competence, resentment, likability, and morality. Does the new behavior you’re attempting feel authentic to you? Is it the right thing to do? Answering these questions will help identify the “gap” in our behavioral style that we can then bridge by using the three C’s: Clarity, Conviction, and Customization. Perhaps most interesting, Molinsky has discovered that many people who confront what they were avoiding come to realize that they actually enjoy it, and can even be good at it.
Reprinted from Reach by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Andy Molinsky
The Incredibly Powerful Effect of Simply Giving It a Try
One of the most surprising aspects of my research has been the extent to which people so often seem to find interesting discoveries about things that they initially feared. It’s a bit like trying a completely new food you’ve always been a bit afraid of. You may not like it; in which case, your initial fear would be justified. But what if you did like it? In fact, what if that food was one of the most wonderful things you’ve ever tasted—and you can’t quite believe you never gave it a try?
Granted, this doesn’t always happen: There are certainly situations that are so deeply stressful and difficult that simply giving it a go doesn’t make the behavior feel any more palatable. But in so many cases I’ve witnessed—and experienced for myself—there is a very powerful effect of giving something a try. And the “engine” for this effect, what makes taking that leap so powerful, is what I like to call personal discovery: what you learn about yourself, about the situation you’ve been struggling with, and, most important, about yourself in that situation you’ve been struggling with.
When you avoid a challenging situation out of fear or worry or potential embarrassment, you never get to benefit from the power of discovery. But when you do muster up the courage to give it a shot, you may be quite surprised at what you discover on the other side. That certainly was the case for Ella Cheng, a sophomore at Princeton running for class senator but terrified of what she had to do to win the seat. Ella had initially become interested in student government in high school, running for and, eventually, winning class president. But that was high school, where a few posters on the wall and free candy in the hallway could pretty much win the day.
At her university, which was hundreds of times larger than her high school, things would be completely different. She’d have to go door to door to meet with her potential constituents, convincing them that they should vote for her—and not for the other people running for the seat. It was serious business—and the most challenging aspect of all was the self-promotion she feared she’d have to do to secure people’s votes. As a lifelong introvert and a pretty modest person to boot, Ella dreaded these impromptu, unscripted conversations with strangers—then add in the fact that she had to pitch and promote herself like a product, and it became practically intolerable. But there was something about this opportunity to serve that appealed to her. Ella had loved being class president in high school and was really able to make a difference. She had been inspired by the stories she heard from public servants—judges, politicians, and philanthropists—who came to speak at her high school to tell their stories. There was no other position where she could make that size of a difference for so many people. And so running for class office in college was the logical next step. So Ella went for it—and the big surprise for her was that she truly liked it! Granted, it was exhausting. During one election, she spoke with three hundred people in just three weeks. But many of these conversations ended up being deeply valuable and validated the reasons that Ella wanted to get into public service in the first place.
At some point you too will take the leap. And what I want to tell you is that you probably will be very surprised at what’s on the other side of the threshold. I’m hoping that this type of situation—or a version of this situation—resonates with you. You can substitute any situation you want here—asking your boss for a raise, speaking up at a meeting, making a sale, delivering bad news. My point is that when you take that leap, you can start to experience a previously terrifying situation through an entirely new set of eyes.