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Head Coach: Here's a sure fire way to enjoy holidays

Nov. 10, 2011 at 5:10 a.m.

According to a study Lane Johnson read, seven out of every 10 people in a crowd have feelings of anxiety about being less confident than others in the room.

By Lane Johnson

The holidays are just around the corner, which means most of us will be spending time around lots of people. There will be office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family functions, extended family functions, shopping crowds and traffic snarls.

Not all of us are comfortable around so many people. In fact, if you follow the studies, you know that most people experience increased anxiousness around groups.

Here's why. For some reason, no matter how confident we feel about ourselves, approximately 70 percent of us privately feel as though everyone else in the room has it together better than we do. This means that 70 percent of us have this notion that most of the other folks are more confident, more competent, and maybe even a little smarter than I am. Consequently, in the presence of a group of people, we tend to think that we will have to be on our toes and work hard at keeping up with everyone else.

That notion is usually accompanied with the worry that if we don't stay alert, it will become obvious to everyone that we don't measure up. That would be embarrassing and lead to what we fear the most ... public humiliation.

We don't ever confess this fear. That would only reveal this closely guarded secret. Instead, we suppress our worries and fears around crowds of people and try to do the best we can, in spite of all the added anxiety we heap on ourselves as we dread the holidays.

Before you say, "Gee thanks, Lane, for framing the holiday season with such comforting thoughts," let me propose something you can do about it. Instead of gearing up for the added stress by stockpiling your coping skills, let me suggest a strategy that can actually reduce your anxiety and take the strain off. I figured this out a number of years ago, and it catapulted me right out of that 70 percent group.

It happened one day when I stepped into a room full of people and that familiar alarm went off in my head that warned, "You know, Lane, most of the people in this room have it together better than you do, and you better pay attention or you're going to really embarrass yourself."

But then it dawned on me that I wasn't alone. I remembered the studies indicating that seven out of 10 people in a room are hearing the same alarm in their head. So, I'm not the only one.

In fact, most of us in the group are worried about not measuring up or being good enough. But, all that thought does is lead to the old cliché, misery loves company. I'm still anxious. The idea that we are almost all anxious is of little consolation. It was the next idea I had that lifted my anxiety.

Think about this. If 70 percent of the people in the room are believing that most of those present are brighter than they are, that means seven out of the 10 people in the room have a belief that I'm brighter than they are. Why not just claim it? Act as if you are more together than most of the people in the room. Don't be obnoxious or self righteous about it. Just carry yourself with an air of confidence and competence. Seventy percent of the people are thinking it already and won't even give you an argument. It's yours. If the other 30 percent try to argue with you, what are the chances you will lose every one? For every argument you win, you raise the group that views you positively by 10 percent. Heck, go ahead and lose every argument. The worst it can get is seven out of 10 people thinking you are pretty cool. How can you be anxious about that?

Suddenly, the holidays with all those people are not so bad. In fact, think about how much fun you can have strutting through all those crowds. You already impress 70 percent. I can't wait.

Happy holidays.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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