You are here

Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

We all have fears that make us wince, squirm and wish we could crawl into a hole. Many of these uncomfortable situations take place in the workplace. For example, my coworker told me never to schedule her for podium time at a conference. It makes her too nervous. Another coworker can't stand networking; he simply goes blank when it comes to small talk.

 We share some of these not-so-pleasant activities that you should focus on to improve your career trajectory and your success, from Hubspot blogger Meghan Keaney Anderson.

1. Learn to take a compliment. This might sound crazy, but when the big boss comes by your desk to say great job on that report, what do you do? Often, due to the surprise factor, many of us end of responding with a babbling two to three word, incoherent response, such as Uh … uh … thanks. Many people feel uncomfortable receiving compliments while others will fish for more. Anderson says to take a compliment like this:

a. Realize and acknowledge that someone is paying you a compliment.

b. Let the person finish what they are saying.

c. Take a breath, smile and say "Thank you, that's really good to hear." Then move on. Don't over-explain. Don't undervalue yourself. Just graciously accept and move on.

2. Get comfortable with public speaking. Many of us have a fear of public speaking. As Anderson points out, there's even a term for it—glossophobia. Who knew?

I fear public speaking because I'm afraid I'll lose my train of thought mid-sentence or that someone will ask me a question that makes me look like I don't know what I'm talking about. Others worry about breaking out into a sweat or simply not being able to communicate clearly. Public speaking can be very stressful and uncomfortable. So, what should you do?

a. Know the essential points. You don't need to memorize your entire presentation, just memorize the high-level points or key takeaways. Also, remember your pivot lines-those phrases that help you transition from one point to the next.

b. Remember that the audience wants you to succeed. There is no adversarial atmosphere here. Your audience is friendly, so approach it that way.

c. Fake it. Even if your stomach is full of knots, don't show it. Smile, breathe deeply, strike a power pose and take control. You might be nervous on the inside, but others will never know.

3. Work with data. I remember when the teacher used to call on us in school to come up to the board to work a problem. I'm no mathematician, so this was definitely my worst fear. Many of us suffer from this fear in the workplace as well. As Anderson says, delving into data can be intimidating. But learning to use data to find opportunities and underscore your points can be a game-changer for your career.

Learn how to use data in context. Explore spreadsheets at the close of a month and get comfortable looking at numbers to see trends, and to see how one metric affects another. Once you spend more time with data, the more comfortable you'll become.

4. Take Critical Feedback. We've all experienced a moment where someone criticizes your work. A first reaction is to become angry or resentful, or embarrassed and sad.

Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be one best ways to grow in your career. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you're interpreting it right.

5. Give Critical Feedback. What's worse than getting critical feedback? Giving critical feedback to someone else. Again, it's an opportunity to help someone do better, and it can be done with respect.

First, take the emotion out of the situation. Don't try to soften the blow or talk around the feedback. Anderson says to deliver one clear line followed by detail. For example, "John, what you're doing isn't working. Let's talk through why ..."

Feedback is always most constructive if accompanied by recent concrete examples. Provide clear examples so there is no question about what behavior or action needs to change. The person receiving the feedback should leave the conversation feeling empowered to change, not feeling defeated.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson