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How to help others overcome fear & go for their dreams

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by Christie Browning

Whether you have employees that work for you, have team members who have joined you, or have people you mentor who lean on you, sometimes we have to face the facts... fear happens!

In business and in our personal lives we might run into the situation where someone is paralyzed by fear and you want to say the right thing to encourage them to move ahead... but what exactly do or do you not say??? Those cliche comments can come across without feeling and sometimes a bit harsh. So let's start by talking about what NOT to say:

  1. "Just get over it" - all fears are born out of beliefs that might not be serving us well. Limiting beliefs can hold us back and keep us stuck. It's those fear-based thoughts that we learned along the way in life that got us here so when someone says "just get over it" confirms the limiting belief that they are a failure, or screwed up because they feel stuck. While this statement is meant to evoke a forward progression, it can make someone want to crawl back in the corner and not try at all.
  2. "Feel the fear and do it anyway" - While the heart behind this statement is full of good intention, what we may be missing is that the fear really is heavy. Fear can make someone feel as if they are trying to run with lead weights around their ankles. The fear they feel is real to them. The idea of moving ahead and facing those fears can be overwhelming. 
  3. "Fear is part of the process" - This statement would make me want to run right into the arms of mediocrity. If fear has to be part of my process or success, and I am already saddled with my fear, I would just want to give up!
  4. "Just do what I did" - Not everyone can tackle things in the same way. What worked for you isn't always might work for someone else. Your experience can be valuable to give someone hope, but try to refrain that your plan or path is the one for success.

Now let's flip the table and look at what we CAN say to help someone facing fears. 

  1. Acknowledge that their issue is real - Acknowledging the fear doesn't mean that is TRUE but it does support them and convey that you understand and sympathize with how they are feeling. There's a difference between real fear and true fear. Most times our fears aren't true, but they are real to us. Nothing can change until we recognize that there are real fear feelings.
  2. Relate to the challenge - Don't call the fear a problem - that can come across as if they themselves are a problem. Rather call the barrier you are facing a "challenge." If you are able to share some of your personal challenges, do so and offer them hope that they can overcome their challenges too. If you don't have a relate-able experience, maybe you know someone who does and you can share their story. The point is, we all want to know we are not alone and that we aren't the only ones to go through this. So relating to a person's situation can be important. 
  3. Ask if you can help - Remember that someone may be sharing their feelings with you as a way to unload or vent. What they want is a listening ear, not a problem solver. So before you jump in to help solve their problems or offer solutions, ask if you can help or if they would like some help. No sense pushing yourself onto someone if they really just needed a shoulder to lean on versus a superhero to save the day.
  4. Ask them to describe the worse case/ best case scenario - When we look at our fears and think "what's the worse thing that can happen," often times we diminish the fear by seeing things wouldn't be so bad if our fears came true. We can get pretty worked up emotionally which can shade our perspective. Then flip the conversation to describe the best case scenario if they were to overcome their fears and push through to the other side. That can give someone hope to make a go of it.
  5. Ask them what they can do next - The greatest gift you can give is to empower them to make a move. If we removed the challenge or fear for them, how would they ever gain their own sense of power and accomplishment? It's important that they figure out the next steps they need to take so that they can see how in control they really are!

These steps can make a big difference in your leadership skills with your team and employees. They are also good steps to take with those you love, such as your significant other or a child. Relationships, where professional or personal, can build strength when we choose to empower those to make strides of their own, versus offering cheap cliche's that can leave them without results.