Fear is in the air around Halloween. Humans even choose to be scared by movies and haunted houses, just for the thrill of it! Most of the time, fear is not so great. It makes us question ourselves and often keeps us from doing things we want to, because fear makes us doubt.
Fear escalates during uncertainty. The pandemic certainly has served up a big share of uncertainty. When humans are in fear mode, they tend towards one of two reactions – fight or flight. You can see this playing out in our society. Violence is escalating, rants are common on social media and even in real life. People are becoming entrenched in beliefs to the point of no reasoning or compromise works. On the other side, people are risk averse. Not wanting to try new things. According to Psychology Today “Fear is a common but counterproductive response to uncertainty. When fear dominates, the creative brain shuts down.”
Fear is toxic to communications. You can see this in work cultures. Those who lead by fear get very little input from their people. “Keep your head down and just work.” Is a common attitude. Great leaders foster a culture of participation, trust, and yes, vulnerability. According to Simon Sinek, “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” Trust is the opposite end of fear.
Navigating communication is challenging during times like we are living in. Even if you have a great work culture, remember there is a ton of uncertainty and fear in people’s lives right now. Words matter, so think carefully about what you say. Be honest and clear in what you want to communicate. Ask for feedback and listen to that feedback carefully. Show people that you care about them. This will build trust. It often takes courage to have honest conversations. Be brave.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune