Are you interested in controlling your Anxiety? If so, read on! In this blog article, I’ll be reaching into my big bag of emotional intelligence tricks to pull out a Knowledge Nugget that defines Fear & Anxiety. I’m also going to pull out a Tiny Tweak Technique you can use the next time your Anxiety is active called Recognizing Rational & Irrational Thinking. Let’s get started with a brief story.
The Brief Story Six weeks ago, Rebecca was hired to take over a very large project that’s currently tracking in the red. If you are not familiar with project management terms, this basically means things aren’t going very well. Actually, yellow would mean things aren’t going very well. Red means things are bad. The project is over budget, critical deadlines have been missed, and the project team members are at odds with one another. Rebecca has her hands full.
Her first executive review meeting is scheduled for a week from today. In the upcoming meeting, she is expected to provide a status update along with her list of recommendations for moving forward. The meeting will include several of the company’s key executive resources.
Included in Rebecca’s updates is a request for an additional $750k because the original project team failed to scope the project properly. Rebecca is also going to recommend having John, a senior resource on the team, reassigned to a new role. Although John is well-liked throughout the organization, his technical skills do not align with what’s required for his current role on this particular project. His lack of technical know-how has had a direct impact on several bad decisions and feedback from the team indicates his skill gap is also having a direct impact on the team’s productivity. Because John is friendly, has an outgoing personality, and is well-liked in the organization, Rebecca is anticipating some resistance from the executive team.
Rebecca has been managing high-visibility projects for over a decade. She has a solid success record and a reputation for delivering. Her skills are well-matched for the role but there is always a significant degree of stress that comes along with the projects Rebecca is hired to manage. Especially in the beginning.
In the days leading up to the meeting, Rebecca is thinking a whole host of thoughts such as
“The executives are not going to like what I have to say.”
“I haven’t even started on my slide deck and if it isn’t well-organized and concise the meeting isn’t going to go well.”
“I don’t have a lot of experience using Microsoft Teams and I’m going to look bad if the technology fails in the middle of the meeting because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
At the end of a long day when she’s feeling weary, she also finds herself thinking additional thoughts such as:
“If this meeting doesn’t go well, they are probably going to fire me.”
The executives are going to blame me for the $750k deficit.”
A big part of emotional intelligence and your ability to work with your emotions rather than working against them is having self-awareness around the thoughts you are thinking. You also need to understand emotions activate in response to your thoughts. In Rebecca’s case, the thoughts she is thinking are causing her Anxiety to activate.
Knowledge Nugget: Fear & Anxiety Defined This article's Knowledge Nugget includes a definition of Fear and Anxiety. These two emotions are like cousins. They are related but they are different from one another.
Both Fear and Anxiety are emotions that activate when there is a threat (or a perceived threat) to your physical and/or emotional safety and well-being. The primary difference between these two emotions is Fear is real-time. Anxiety is future-based. With Fear, the threat (or perceived threat) is right now. With Anxiety, the threat is forthcoming.
Rebecca’s current thoughts are related to the upcoming meeting scheduled to take place in the future which is why Anxiety is the active emotion. In this situation, it’s not Fear.
Emotions are action-requiring. They are designed to bring valuable information into your awareness so you can respond by taking a suitable action. Because Anxiety is about future-based threats to your physical and/or emotional safety and well-being, the beauty is you still have time to get yourself prepared!
$750k dollars is a lot of money and the decision to re-assign a key resource isn’t something leadership usually takes lightly. Rebecca is right with her thinking. There is a high likelihood the executives aren’t going to like what Rebecca has to say. Her Anxiety is helping her recognize the need for her to communicate these two items very carefully. It behooves her to prepare and rehearse how she plans to go over these two specific topics.
Next, because her slide deck isn’t done, her Anxiety is helping her here too. Anxiety is active and as long as she is working with her Anxiety instead of working against it, she can recognize the need to prioritize this effort and get started ASAP. Thank you Anxiety!
And Since Rebecca doesn’t have experience using Microsoft Teams, her Anxiety is helping her recognize she needs to familiarize herself with the technology BEFORE going into the meeting.
In all three of these examples, Rebecca’s emotional security (aka her reputation, job security, and credibility) is at risk. The thoughts she is thinking are why Anxiety is active. In response, she can prioritize accordingly and get herself better prepared prior to the important meeting. That’s working with an emotion rather than working against it!
Tiny Tweak Technique: Recognizing Rational & Irrational Thinking But here’s the thing, to effectively work with your emotions rather than working against them, it is absolutely essential you understand the relationship between your thoughts and your emotions.
There is a thought behind every emotion that activates. Your emotions, however, have no way of determining if you are thinking rationally. The “job” of your emotions is to simply activate in response to the thoughts you are thinking.
Rebecca was hired to get this project back on track. Her thought about getting fired if this first meeting doesn’t go well isn’t very rational.
Neither is her thought about the executive team blaming her for the $750k deficit.
When Anxiety is active, one of the first things you can do is to examine your thinking to determine if you are thinking rationally. This is where the Tiny Tweak Technique called Recognizing Rational and Irrational Thinking comes into play.
To determine if you are thinking irrationally, consider asking yourself these two questions:
Question #1:Do I have facts to support my thinking?
Question #2:Is there a 50/50 chance I could be wrong?
Asking these two brief questions can help you determine if your thoughts are rational or irrational.
In Rebecca’s case, she doesn’t have any facts to support her thought about getting fired if the first meeting doesn’t go well. And the likelihood she would be blamed by a team of seasoned executives for the $750k deficit is very unlikely. Sure, there’s a remote chance either of these could happen but it’s highly unlikely and there are no facts to support this thinking.
Taking the time to challenge her thoughts by asking these two questions gives Rebecca an opportunity to eliminate the distractions and wasted energy caused by irrational thinking.
From there, she can lock onto the rational thoughts, engage with her Anxiety, and double-down on getting herself better prepared for the upcoming meeting.
Summary No one is immune from threats that put one’s physical and/or emotional safety and well-being at risk. Fortunately Fear and Anxiety are emotions that activate in response to these threats to help bring valuable information into your awareness so you can respond by taking a suitable action.
Fear and Anxiety are emotions that activate when there is a threat (or a perceived threat) to your physical and/or emotional safety and well-being. With Anxiety, because the threat is future-based, you still have time to become better prepared!
When engaging with Anxiety, it’s always a good idea to check in with your thoughts to determine if you are thinking rationally. Afterall, Anxiety can’t discern between rational and irrational thoughts. Using the two questions associated with the Tiny Tweak Technique called Recognizing Rational & Irrational Thinking it gives you the opportunity to challenge your thoughts and eliminate (to the best of your ability) irrational thinking!