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OTHER ITA SITES:
If I Knew Being Brave Was So Scary I Never Would Have Tried It
I’m feeling really scared right now, not because I’m in a scary situation, but because I was brave and it was scary.
In reality it was a little incident that brought me to this scary place; I had to assert my rights in a business dispute and request that someone else fulfill their obligations. Sounds reasonable enough. Even sounds like a daily occurrence for some business people. Hmmm…then why is it that facing a reasonable, somewhat daily occurrence makes me so very scared? I’m guessing that it has nothing to do with this specific incident, and everything to do with my amygdala. Yes, I said amygdala, not armadillo!! However, if I had an armadillo it would scare me too!
The amygdala is the part of our brain that holds emotional memories; those two words emotional memories are the key. Whenever we are faced with a stressful event or crisis, which awakens our emotional memories, our amygdala “hijacks” our working memory. We then experience the classic “fight or flight” reaction, along with a flood of adrenalin and cortisol. When cortisol levels are high, we make more mistakes, are more distracted, and can’t remember as well; even if we are only trying to recall something we just read. In other words, when we are hijacked by our amygdala we all become very, very scared.
The trick to dealing with hijacks in the work place is to become more self-aware and make different choices. First recognize what you are feeling, second realize which one of your emotional memories caused the hijack and finally choose to respond in a new way. Of course all of this requires being brave, but you can’t be brave until you have first been scared. Think of it this way, being scared is the first step in being brave.
In my case, my amygdala hijacked my emotions (meaning simply that I was really, really scared without a really, really good reason) when I had to assert my rights and request someone fulfill their obligation. Although this might cause some of us to be intimidated there is a smaller select group of us that would feel more scared than intimidated. I was not so much scared of requesting someone do their job, as I was scared that they would think I had no right to tell them what to do, even though they were working for me. My rights seem to always be trumped by someone else’s right to act however they want, even if they are treating me unfairly. When my rights are involved – I recognize that the first thing I feel is “scared”; a classic hijack!
Second, I had to realize the root cause of that feeling. Trust me on this one, once you know your root cause it is easier to see that all the emotion you are pouring into a hijacked situation is really coming from another place, a place in your emotional memory. This is a little like once you have been traumatized by a rabid, foaming at the mouth dog, in the future, the mere sight of any dog can cause you to run for the hills. A classic “fight or flight” amygdala hijack moment!
Finally, we can all choose to respond to hijack attempts in a new way. Just because you have tried to be brave in the past and ended up over-the-top scared in the process doesn’t mean that is how you will always react. Once you have recognized you are in the midst of a hijack moment, and realized the root cause, then remind yourself that because you are now more self-aware, you have the power to choose a new, healthier response. Oh yeah, you will still be scared the first few times you try this, but each time you should be just a little less scared and a little more brave.
There you have it; why being brave is so scary. In reflection, if I had known becoming brave would have required so much of being scared first, I would have done it anyway. I prefer to be more self-aware by recognizing my feelings, realizing why I feel them, and responding to them in a healthier manner. Well, at least most of the time.
If you would like more information about developing your own self-awareness in the work place and finding new ways to make different choices, then contact one of our SmartWork Career coaches @ 805.376-1906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Our coaches will help you to become more self-aware, develop clarity, and create an action plan to get from where you are to where you want to be in your career and in your life.
1.Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence” (Bantam Books 1997)
© Copyright 2006 Suzanne Freiberg. All Rights Reserved.
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