False Expectations Appearing Real

Can you remember a time when you felt afraid even though nothing bad or fearful was happening in that moment? How often do you imagine, “Well, if I do X, then I know Y (a bad thing) will happen…” Have you ever looked back on these moments and realized there was nothing to be afraid of?

The fact is that in most cases your mind is playing a trick on you. Sometimes, just thinking about a thing we dread can cause anxiety, heart palpitations and tension and make us feel as though we were faced with an actual threat or negative outcome. The result can be missed opportunities and lots of disappointment because we are making fear-based decisions.

One way to conquer this pattern is to look at fear differently. If you take the word “fear” and make an acronym with its letters you can find a working definition of most of our fears: False Expectations Appearing Real. We expect a false outcome, and we imagine it so vividly that it appears real in our mind – so real that even our body reacts as though it is happening right now. Then, we usually take a course of action that makes us feel more comfortable, perhaps without even realizing we’re moving in the wrong direction.

This is a common scenario when a new sales representative faces the phone. Ironically, here is a harmless object: The phone. We love the phone! It never leaves our pocket or purse and it provides hours of comfort and entertainment. The phone is a friend, it’s a source of news, and frequently gives us messages of love and affection.

In sales you’ll frequently hear the phrase “F.E.A.R. of the phone” when a representative is struggling. So what are we afraid of? How does this nice, fun and friendly technology become evil and frightening overnight? It doesn’t, of course.

It’s still the wonderful tool it has always been. For new sales reps, however, what changes is that the phone becomes a mirror reflecting their fears. Perhaps he’s afraid of stumbling over his words. Maybe she’s worried she’ll forget which questions to ask. Or, maybe she’s afraid the prospect will actually agree to see CUTCO, and then what?

In these moments, it’s helpful to remember that courage isn’t the absence of F.E.A.R., but rather the ability to move through it and forward despite our F.E.A.R. If you or your people are experiencing a False Expectation that Appears Real, there are several useful strategies that can help. Using the example of the phone, here are four steps you can take to overcome your F.E.A.R.:

1. Assess the threat

What is truly the worst thing that could happen? If the worst thing actually happened, what would you do? In the example of the phone, perhaps someone will hang up on you. So what? It’s unpleasant, sure, but you can handle that.

2. Ask yourself: Is the expectation that’s scaring you the only possible outcome?

Be honest with yourself; sometimes we create self-fulfilling “prophecies” where our actions influence the outcome in the expected way. What would happen if you expected a good outcome?

3. Brainstorm all of the possible positive outcomes

Make a list and keep it handy. “Mrs. Jones will remember me and be happy to hear from me.” “Lisa’s mom would love to see me and help me out.” “Aunt Carol loves to cook and will definitely buy something.” Refer to this list when you start feeling F.E.A.R.

4. Imagine the results of a positive outcome

You will feel great about yourself because you moved through your fear and took action. Do this a few times, and you’ll begin to feel new confidence in yourself and your abilities

It may take some practice, but by using this strategy as soon as you feel those false expectations creeping in, you’ll be able to move through your fears and achieve things you never expected!