Fighting the fear at work

Afraid of speaking up?

Afraid of talking to senior management?

Afraid of giving a presentation? 

Afraid of speaking to someone new?

Then you are definitively not alone. Many supervisor worry about their staff not speaking up and I have come across even senior statisticians, who are very uncomfortable about doing a pre-recorded interview for the podcast.

Join Sam and I while we discuss our experience and tips we have learned from other statisticians.

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You will also learn about 7 Tips to Help You Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking.

  1. Start Small
  2. Prepare Thoroughly
  3. Don’t Just Memorize the Words
  4. Avoid Common Bullets
  5. Reduce Stress
  6. Find a Friend to Focus On
  7. Engage the Audience

Reference articles from Sam we talk about:

Reference article by Lolly Daskal:

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Alexander: You are listening to the effective statistician podcasts, a weekly podcast with Alexander Shacht, Benjamin Piske and Sam Gardener designed to help you reach your potential and lead great signs and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. Today, we are talking about Fighting the Fear at work. So stay tuned for this really good discussion, and now the music. Fear, maybe you think, is this really a topic at work? But actually says a lot of things that we fear at work and I have been, things that I am fearing all the time and it’s not necessarily something like fear that you would have for an angry animal, like a big one, or a spider or whatever you have but there are other things. Other kinds of fear that we will talk about in this episode. And producing this podcast in association with PSI, a community dedicated to leading and promoting the use of statistics within the Healthcare Industry for the benefit of patients. Join PSI today to further develop your statistical capabilities with access to the video on demand content library. Free registration to all PSI members and much much more. Visit the PSI website at to learn more about PSI activities and become a PSI member today. 

Alexander: Welcome to another episode with Sam, and we are talking today about something quite unpleasant, fear. 

Sam: Yeah, I’m very scared of this discussion that we’re going to have.

Alexander: You know what? When I started the podcast, I was actually quite fearful about publishing it. You know, and going on it and having it all turns the world, having people that critique it and people that will talk bad about myself, all kinds of different things. And also, I had a fear that maybe I spend a lot of energy here and then it goes nowhere. You know, what, what happens if nobody’s listening? We’re talking about this type of fear, not the kind of the fear of being killed or you’re injured or things like that. That rarely happens to us Statisticians, at least in my world. So I don’t know whether it’s different in the non-canonical world where it’s more dangerous, the worst thing that can happen is probably that you kind of fall off your chair, something surprising is coming up. 

Sam: Well, you know, I think fear and fearfulness is a natural reaction to a lot of situations. Usually when there’s a lot of unknown information or where you don’t have a lot of experience. 

Alexander: Yes, if you want to tap into something new, into something uncomfortable. Yeah, that’s always, you have this feeling of fear. It’s also a topic that is coming up in all leadership training all the time. The fear of speaking up is very big, especially in our kind of introverted, detailed oriented logical atmosphere. Yeah, and it’s even more, if you have seven different age groups coming together, more Junior, more senior people. Different cultural clashes against each other, people can be really fearful of speaking up in meetings. Another fear that I had for a long time in my career was fearful of talking to a Senior Management. Yeah, talking to my supervisor, usually is fine and maybe also the supervisor of my supervisor. But really talking to someone that sits on the CEO board of or something like this. I think, if I were to enter the elevator, the CEO  would step in, I don’t know, 20 years ago, I would never bring out a word. 

Sam: Yeah, you know, and that’s interesting. I never had that fear. And I think it had to do with how I was raised as a child and like my parents were teachers. And you think when you’re young, who are the authority figures in your life? A lot of times, they are your teachers and the administrators of your school. Well, my Dad was a school administrator, my Mom was a teacher, all of their friends were teachers and school administrators. And so, I just interacted with those people in my life. You know, because they have their friends over and they were all teachers. And so I just learned to talk to them. And so I was never fearful of talking to a teacher, or School, Principal or Dean, or anything like that. And then that trickled over to my career when yeah, but I think that was just partly because of the experience that I had. I just never developed that fear of authority like that.

Alexander: Yeah, you saw the human in them. 

Sam: Yeah.

Alexander: Not the teachers or Deans. There’s an interesting quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway up there”. There’s a lot of sense in it.

Sam: Is that, “Fake it until you make it”?

Alexander: A little bit like that. I think it is great, because, how should I say it? It’s okay to be fearful. It’s okay to accept that you are fearful. Say, okay. I recognize that I’m fearful but I still act. I don’t let this fear drive my decision.

Sam: Yeah, and sometimes you have to think about, what’s the source of the fear that you have? Is it a reasonable source of fear or not? Like you ought to be afraid of running out in the middle of a busy street. 

Alexander: Yes. What’s the worst case scenario? Get hit by a bus.

Sam: Or breaking the law, right? You ought to be afraid of breaking the law, you know, because if you get one because it’s wrong, but secondly, if you get caught you’re going to face consequences, right? That’s or lying to somebody, you don’t be afraid of that because of the potential impact that would have on a relationship, you know.

Alexander: What can really happen if you talk to someone?

Sam: That’s often a good question. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that would happen? And what’s the most likely thing that would happen? Right? And just talking to someone oftentimes with the worst thing might be, you find out you don’t like each other.

Alexander: Or, you know, maybe you are a little bit embarrassed?

Sam: Maybe, yeah. 

Alexander: Yeah, but well, will it matter? I once heard, will it matter in five minutes, five hours, five days, five years? And usually it already doesn’t matter in five minutes. So really, you know, what’s the point? 

Sam: Yeah, well, you know, one thing too, is this whole eye area of fear of people or you know, the old proverb called fear of man, right? The fear of what other people are going to think and say about you. it’s a huge issue for a lot of us, right? We all struggle with that at some point in time, but then what happens is, if it can make us do things that we probably shouldn’t do. Like not speak up when we should speak up.

Alexander: Yeah, what might they say.

Sam: Yeah, even in the area of ethics and business and personal ethics, you know, it’s like you see somebody that maybe he’s doing the wrong thing, but you’re afraid that if I speak up, that is going to have negative repercussions for you. That has happened far too often. but in reality that’s a really wrong response to that kind of fear. You should change what you should fear more, is not doing the right thing. you know, that and oftentimes, that’s the key to overcoming fears. Replacing whatever fear you do have with the right kind of fear, fearing of doing the wrong thing, or the thing that would be good for other people.

Alexander: The problem with fear is that if it’s too strong, your Amygdala really hijacks your brain. so you’re really decreasing your IQ very, very much. And what you then need to do is, you need to ask yourself a question. Things like what’s really important for me? What can go wrong? Things like that, which kind of really get your frontal, prefrontal cortex going and really make you think and that way you get really into control of what you want to do again. And then act, there’s this famous three-second rule, yeah, so act within three seconds. Yeah, if you are at a conference, and you see this really famous Statistician that you always wanted to talk to. Go and talk within 3 seconds, because otherwise, you have taught, you have too much time to talk you out of it. That way, I actually missed my chance to speak to Michael Gross. You know who Michael Gross is?

Sam: No, I don’t think I do.

Alexander: He is a German swimmer, multiple World Champion, Olympic Champion and so on. And once I was standing in the queue at the airport in Frankfurt, and he was standing directly in front of me. I was thinking he’s quite tall. He’s even taller than me, and I’m quite tall and I think I know his face, and then I realized, and then I didn’t act and I came up with all kinds of excuses, yeah. So don’t do that. Act, decide to take action.

Sam: Yeah, and I think things like that. That’s an interesting example, you see someone who’s a famous person, and part of you, I think the fear you might have is if you were to say introduce yourself is that, you just be afraid that they don’t really want to be bothered because people bother them all the time, you know their fame, they don’t ever have any privacy because of their fame. But I’ve done that, one time I was in the airport here locally and I saw a famous scientist, Dr. Negishi. He won the Nobel Prize, and he’s actually a professor at the university that I went to, and I just had someone I used to work for who was one of his students. And so I saw him there, so that’s Dr. Negishi. And I thought, well, I can just let it go. But I just went over and I said hello to Dr. Negishi, and he looked at me. And I just want to introduce myself. I know one of your former students and he was my boss, and, and it was just a nice short little conversation. I was glad I did that, you know.

Alexander: Yeah, it’s great. Then get out of your comfort zone. The next step, I talked a lot about the comfort zone, kind of recently, with lots of different people, because I see it as a recurring scene. Growth really happens just outside the comfort zone. If you stay within your comfort zone, you’ll do the same stuff again and again and again. And you really don’t grow. Only if you step outside of your comfort zone, and you can do that. Actually, on a regular basis, you can train that, and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Sam: Yeah, and I think there’s sometimes intentionally putting yourself in a position of discomfort, it helps you learn how to do that more naturally. 

Alexander: Yeah. And you don’t need to directly jump out of an airplane or something like this. 

Sam: No.

Alexander: So take baby steps, yeah. It’s really one step at a time. It’s like this exposure therapy. If you have fear of spiders, or fear of hate or whatsoever? Yeah, and this exposure therapy is gradually increasing the exposure to what you’re fearing. Yeah. So I like speaking up. Well, first speak up in your, you know, group meeting, then speak up in your department meeting. Yeah, do that a couple of times. And next time you’re at a conference try to speak up in a session. Do that a couple of times, and then at a conference speak up after the keynote, raise a question. If you are there, you’re probably more advanced than 90% of the others in the room. 

Sam: Yeah, and I think sometimes the fear that you have in doing that is you have a fear of, like, looking silly, you know. Maybe the question that you would ask a speaker, at the end of a presentation, was just a dumb question. But there aren’t any dumb questions. And probably, the question that you have is a question that someone else has. 

Alexander: Yeah, 

Sam: And it’s so, in some respects you, by asking the question, You’re asking a question for a lot of people not just you. 

Alexander: Yeah.

Sam: Thinking about it that way. I also think about thinking in advance, like what would I do or say in a given situation where you sort of, almost like a model, a situation in your mind, and think about how I would respond? That can help you overcome fear. When you kind of already decided how you’re going to respond to certain situations or or kind of have practiced a little bit even doing that can help you. But yeah that fear of looking bad or I guess it may come down to fear of failure sometimes.

Alexander: Fear of rejection. 

Sam: Because that comfort zone is kind of like the boundary of where you think you’re going to succeed or fail. 

Alexander: Yeah, 

Sam: So getting outside your comfort zone, I don’t know if I’m going to succeed outside my comfort zone and sometimes, you won’t know until you step outside that boundary and you find out. 

Alexander: Yeah, when you have done that, focus on the positive learning, even if something didn’t go well, as you expect it. But there is always some learning in it. Yeah. Maybe you learned about the other guy. Where you thought, he’s a nice dude, and then you thought, maybe he’s not as nice as I thought. So there’s always some learning about it. Yeah, or maybe reflect on, I should have maybe phrased it differently. Yeah, so I once, you know, asked the question at a conference and afterwards, I thought that came across as pretty aggressive. And I said, I’d never wanna do that again. Yeah, I will always kind of make it much more polite, you know, much more open rather than direct. Well, maybe that’s my kind of German coming through. 

Sam: No, I don’t believe you Germans are not direct at all. 

Alexander: So, the other thing, if you’re fearful, get support, yeah, get encouragement. Get, you know, someone that cheers you up. Yeah, maybe it’s your spouse, your colleague, your supervisor friend, whoever. Yeah, get support through this journey so that you can fight this fear of all the different things that you want to do, but you’re just fearful about.

Sam: Right. And I think what you need is that area of trust somehow, having a trusted relationship where there is trust. So even if you get into a situation that is fearful and maybe you find out, you know, you’re afraid you’re going to fail. And maybe even if you do fail, you’ve got that support network you can come back to the people you trust and people that, you know, care about you and your well-being and your career, and your life, and they can kind of build you backup a little bit. And maybe talk you through it and help you see the situation in a different light, because I think the other thing is these fears are really strong emotions. And the emotion can really kind of skew your perception of what reality is, sometimes. You know, it can magnify something, make it look like it’s much bigger than it really is and having that trusted relationship with someone can say, yeah, I know that seemed like that was a really big issue, but it’s not that big a deal, right?

Alexander: Generally, you know, there’s no person in the world that thinks more about you than yourself. You know, we always think about what made us think about us or you know, reflect about us. I think usually the answer is, they don’t at all. Yeah, maybe if you’re kind of I don’t know Superstar, you know, and you have 2 million followers on Instagram or whatsoever, maybe that’s different for us normal dudes. 

Sam: Well now, and when people really care about what you do and say, oftentimes, you don’t even know the impact of what you did or said. You usually find that out a different way, right? Because generally you’re thinking I’m talking right? Or I’m acting, right? And but someone else doesn’t agree with that. Well, you’ll find that out. But that’s a different type of situation. You know, we’re talking about where you see a situation and you over emphasize the impact that that situation had on your life. That can be a real common source of fear. 

Alexander: Yeah. So we had a lot of discussion about fear. We talked about these different typical situations, kind of like being afraid to speak up, being afraid to talk to more Senior people, being afraid to, you know, give a presentation. You really need to recognize it. What are the fears that are holding you back from doing something really great? 

Sam: Yeah, I think the key word that you said there was “holding you back” right? Fear is almost like a, it’s like when you’ve come full of fear. It’s like you’ve got chains on your body. Right? And it’s dragging you down. you can’t move forward. I think that’s a key thing for leaders to understand. Right? If you are leading a group or a team or an organization, fear is one of the biggest problems you’ve got to face in your organization and driving fear out of the organization by building trust and having good communication is that provide as much success as technical competence. And technological advancements and scientific knowledge, just by having a place or workplace where people are not fearful. Will set your business and your organization and your team above others. 

Alexander: Yeah, you’ll have much more fun at work. 

Sam: Yes, of course. 

Alexander: Yeah, so then take action, you know, be responsible, get out of your comfort zone and, do that again and again and again and take baby steps. It doesn’t need to be this big jump directly. Yeah, if you have never spoken up at a staff meeting, don’t go to the next keynote where there’s 2,000 people in the conference room. Yeah. Well when that happens again, after the pandemic and you’ll be the lonely guy in the circle rolls kind of speaks up to this guy or the president whatsoever. Yeah. Baby steps and then, focus on the positive learning, get support and repeat and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. 

Sam: And living a life with less fear is a way to live. I think more fully, just more joyful. We’re not just talking about work. We’re talking about life here, not just fear in the workplace but fear in your family, fear in dealing with people in your community. All those things, if you can drive them out, as long as you’re not ignoring places where you reasonably should be afraid, right? But, like, we talked about before, but yes, certainly driving at fear in your life is going to make your life better in general. 

Alexander: Yeah, absolutely, so take action. Think about something that holds you back. What Is the fear that holds you back on a frequent basis? And, reflect on that, recognize it and get over it. And if you have something that you want to share, something that the episode has helped you. It would be great, if you can send an email to the

Sam: Don’t be afraid to do that.

Alexander: Yeah, 

Sam: Seriously, don’t be afraid to do that. I know, we’d love to hear your feedback about any of our episodes and we’re not afraid to hear what you have to say.

Alexander: Yeah, and even if you say, Sam and Alexander, that was completely stupid and bullshit. Well, that’s okay. Thanks so much, have a great time.

Sam: Okay, ciao! 

Alexander: This show was created in association with PSI, thanks to Reine who helps in this show in the background, and thank you for listening. Head over to the home page to find more resources about how to be more impactful at work and how to boost your career as a statistician in the health sector, reach your potential, lead great signs, and serve patients. Just be an effective Statistician. 

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