She raised her hand, signaling him to stop.
As she walked — almost ran — from the room, her throat was filled with all the things she would like to say. Minutes later, her mind was jammed tight with all the things she should have said. Glancing back, she knew he was still there. Sitting at that table. Perhaps angry. Maybe a bit bewildered.
She knew that she needed to return to the conversation. Her opportunity was fading. But she couldn’t turn around.
She was afraid.
Fear is one of our primary motivators. It can spur us to full speed in a matter of seconds. Or fear can bring us to a dead stop in an instant.
Fear is an integral part of our protective system. Much of our fear is triggered subconsciously — automatic responses to perceived threats. In close physical conflict, combatants do little strategizing about what comes next. Yet, the brain is alive as it processes incoming messages from the senses. Fear serves us well as we pursue that important goal of survival.
But what role does fear play in non-physical conflicts which, for most of us, comprise the largest portion of our conflict menu?
Unfortunately, the conscious consideration of our fears most often results
in two responses. The first is paralysis. We become overwhelmed with the “What if?” Our fear is not only about the initial perceived threat, but all of the potential harms that might result — both real and imagined. Our brains are overloaded with the possibilities for action. Yet, the chief solution to this often panic-filled moment? Do nothing.
The second response is more worrisome and, thus, creates additional fear. Often when frightened, an individual will choose a course of action without fully discerning the possible outcomes.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I was just angry.”
Angry, perhaps. But underlying other emotions, fear is often the culprit that triggers an action or reaction that we come to regret. Through fear, we find ourselves heading down a precarious path.
The primary reason for our avoidance of conversation or our harmful response is the fear that we will be pressured to change our positions or directions. The fear of change is often irrational. In many cases, change is not inevitable — at least not without everyone understanding and accepting the consequences it brings.
In a future post, I’ll present a game plan that can reduce or eliminate that fear for you, your friends, and even those who oppose you.