Interpersonal Edge: Make fear a friend, not a foe
Sunday, June 12, 2016
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. My company is facing significant challenges in 2016. I am worried about my job, my industry and how we are going to solve numerous complicated problems to stay afloat. My worry is affecting my health, my family and my focus at work. What do you tell your clients about how to deal with their fears in the workplace?
  A. What I tell my clients is that your fear can be your friend or your foe, depending on how you work with anxiety. If you learn to use your anxiety, energy will become fuel in the gas tank to motivate you. If you don't use your anxiety effectively, the fear will simply run you over and leave you in the middle of the road at work.
  In our workplaces often the only emotion we consider useful is happiness or excitement, enthusiasm and gladness. We usually glare suspiciously at the three other human emotions - sadness, anger and fear - as if they are the Bermuda triangle that will swallow us whole.
  The truth is our humanity requires us to feel the spectrum of emotions. If you want to stump people at your next office party, ask this interpersonal trivia question: "What are the four human emotions?" You will find most people cannot name the four emotions that they themselves feel constantly.
  The answer, of course is: anger, sadness, gladness and fear. Emotions are not something we can intellectually decide we won't feel. We can lie to ourselves or others about not having emotions. However, when we shove emotions into our unconsciousness, these emotions simply run our lives outside of our awareness. Then most of what is happening "to us" seems like we are victims.
  Fear is a very useful and powerful emotion. Consider your anxiety as your own free security system. Fear will start to sound off when you should be paying attention to a problem. Yes, you will at first be uncomfortable, but you'll also use the early warning system to get prepared.
  "Calvin and Hobbes," the comic strip, once featured the little boy Calvin telling his stuffed tiger that the secret to happiness is to ignore problems. The comic showed the two friends barreling along in a little red wagon. As they went over a cliff, Hobbes the tiger observed, "I don't think I can stand this much bliss." Calvin retorts, "Careful, we don't want to learn anything from this."
  The comic strip is funny because we can all identify with the problem. Anxiety wakes us up but first it makes us uncomfortable. When we first wake up we usually feel flooded by the complexity of the problems we face.
  Then again, being aware of problems gives us the luxury to begin problem solving. I tell clients that even if they only solve one small problem every day at work, they will be further ahead.
  Fear can paralyze us if we look at the mountain of challenges the future presents. When I was writing my dissertation, I was certain I could never write an entire dissertation and couldn't write anything. A wise professor told me to stop trying to write the dissertation and just write one page a day. My writing block went away!
  So, dear reader, as you face the numerous and complicated problems that await you Monday morning, just write one page a day. The journey of a thousand solutions really does begin with one small fear. 
  The last word(s)
  Q. Is there a quick way to know if someone in your workplace is an ally or an adversary?
  A. Yes, ask them. Many people who initially act like adversaries will switch their stance when you inquire.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the June 12, 2016 - June 25, 2016 edition.

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