I recently shared a story with you about expectations, from a conversation that I mediated in a growing organization. The conversation that I told you about was actually the first of a couple of separate conversations that I mediated between different members of this organization. I want to share with you another lesson from another mediated conversation from within this same organization because I get energized and excited doing this work. It’s how I know I’m doing the right work for me — I have to talk about it!
This familiar lesson touched my heart and has stuck with me and kept me thinking, aware, and engaged on a deeper level than I have been in a long time in some areas of my life. The lesson and re-awakening for me have been around fear and the different ways fear shows up in our lives, often in areas where fear wouldn’t be our first thought about what is happening, perhaps not even our second or third idea of what is happening.
A bit of context: This particular mediated conversation took place for many reasons, but the most obvious were about lack of respect between individuals, heated and unproductive outbursts, and possible bullying. These aren’t small concerns, and anyone who has been in a group or organization where this kind of behavior is happening knows things can get real bad, real fast.
Finding (and Shedding) Fear
In working through the mediation process, the layers of the issue began to be revealed. It was like peeling an onion. It became more and more evident that at the heart of the matter was fear. As each person took their turn speaking their truth and explaining the situation from their perspective, the visible layers were shed.
Full transparency on my part: I was a little nervous prior to this particular meeting as I knew tensions had been very high, and there was a lot of pain, as well as a lot of uncertainty, about how people were going to continue to fit into the organization. I felt the weight of that, and I knew the very best I could do for them was to set a safe space and trust them to show up ready to work to make it better. Just like them, I was contending with my own fear.
Deb (not her real name, just like the others mentioned here) shared about anger and disrespect. Brian shared a story he had heard from another co-worker about Deb and about shutting down because of perceived behaviors on the part of another person. Jeanie shared about not feeling heard and feeling like she might lose her job.
Each person shared, and as each piece of the puzzle was shown and explained, what became very clear was that under the anger, disrespect, confusion, hurt, and distrust was fear. When I heard each of their stories and they shared what they needed, it was apparent that what tied all of them together was fear and the need for a safe place to show up to do their work in the organization.
As I saw the beautiful and honest way that each of these people shared their truth, and as they started to open up more and more, it was evident that they had the resources to move through this, grow from the mistakes that they each made, grow in their relationships with one another, and offer more value to the organization because of an understanding of their shared passions and goals.
Yes, it was anger, frustration, resentment, disrespect, being triggered, etc. that were being seen as the “issue,” but it was fear that kept each of them in that place of pain. They were each afraid of slights, real and perceived. They were afraid of being hurt. They were afraid of being seen as not doing a good job. They were afraid of not being accepted for who they were. They were afraid of not being heard and not being able to speak their truth. This fear kept them paralyzed from showing up as their best selves for each other and, more importantly, for themselves.
There’s No Secret Formula
I’d love to give you my “secret formula for banishing fear and being fantastic forever.” You and I both know that’s not real, and when we are honest with ourselves we know that there is always fear about something.
What I will encourage, though, is the recognition that each and every one of us is battling this fear within ourselves, and it shows up in the world in different ways for different people. For me, it may show up as retreating into myself and pulling away from someone I believe will hurt me. For someone else, it may be putting on the armor and going into battle with whoever is present. And for someone else, it may be a dependency on a substance to feel better.
Knowing that fear ties each and every one of us together, and that it is one of the threads that finds its way through each of our stories, what does this mean for how you are showing up in your life? (Tweet this.)
Here are five questions to ask yourself when you notice fear bubbling up within you:
- What are you hiding from?
- What have you not tried because of your fear of failure or fear of success?
- Who have you not apologized to because you were afraid they wouldn’t want to hear from you?
- Who have you not given yourself the chance to know because they seem too good for you or out of your reach?
- Does it change anything for you to know that they are struggling with fear as well?
As we travel along our path, we will meet with people, places, events, and things that bring up fear. It may be seen (by us and others) as anger or aloofness or despondency or something else, but, generally, if you peel back the layers, you will notice fear is at the heart of it. You are not alone in this. You are in good company. In fact, you have about 7.6 billion friends in this club, and they are each working their way through the fears that show up for them and deciding how they will move forward. Fear can divide us or unite us. The unity comes from the recognition of the fear and the moving forward anyway.