Degree of Control, How to Confront Others without Letting your Anxiety Get in the way

Monish SubherwalResolving ConflictLeave a Comment

A: First of all, I’m not a doctor, so seek medical help if the anxiety affects your health. Here’s my non-medical advice: focus on your level of control. Start using a few strategies to confront people and resolve conflicts.

My Experience

I remember when my coach suggested that I stand up to a friend and address what had been bothering me.  The thought of that brought my heart pumping.  No way jose.  

I debated about it – eventually it settled in.   Yes, I did have to talk to him.  BUT I had no clue how to do it – there was too much anxiety for me to fathom.

Eventually, I had to confront my friend and tell him my issues – the experience left me relieved and happy that I did.  But I had to overcome a lot of anxiety.

If you have been putting off an important conversation because you are afraid to have that conversation, this article is going to help you.

It will help you stand up to someone in your life and reduce those feelings of anxiety that may come up.

The Rumbling in Your Tummy

No.  That rumbling in your tummy is not the burrito you just ate.  It’s the anxiety you feel.  Anxiety has multiple levels to it.

The scale (from 1 being smallest to 5 being largest):

  1. Stress
  2. General Anxiety
  3. Panic
  4. Fear
  5. Terror

All of these really have to do with one big word: CONTROL.

Are You In Control?

When you have to talk to others, the level anxiety you feel, is related to the level of CONTROL you feel in relationship to that situation.  

The less control you feel you have, the MORE the feeling of anxiety will increase.

The real issue is that you want to have a conversation with a person about a difficult issue – but you don’t know how to do it.  You have an outcome, but the means to how to achieve that outcome is not clear.

So this is where the stress comes from.  The cognitive dissonance is caused from the gap between WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW and WHERE YOU WANT TO BE.

The greater the gap, the greater your stress.

Simple as that!  So the trick is:  work on your level of control over the situation.

EMPOWERMENT TIP: The less control you feel you have over a difficult conversation, the MORE intensity of anxiety you will feel.

 So… on INCREASING your degree of control you have over a situation. That reduces the anxiety.

The repeated feelings of anxiety leads to stress.

So what can you do to help calm yourself before the difficult conversation?

Here are 7 tips to help you gain more control over your situation — and hence reduce your anxiety.

Tip 1:  Work on what you can do.  Be proactive.

We have no control over other people.  Other people’s actions or thoughts are their own.  We can INFLUENCE others, but we can’t control them.

Since control and stress are highly related, we need to ask ourselves:  “What do we have control over?”  Your mind is an obvious one.  We all have control over our minds.  How about how you communicate?  You can email, text, record a message, write a letter, find an arbiter – there are tons of ways to get your ideas across that can feel comfortable to you.

But what else?  It’s also good to know what is outside your control.

Focusing on what you have control over is the essence of being proactive.  You need to stop feeling intimidated or victimized — proactive people don’t blame others.

I wrote an article on proactivity recently.  Check it out.

Tip 2:  Ask yourself, how much influence do I feel I have?

If you think you can control things outside your control – like other people, the weather, the stock market – the more anxiety you will feel.

So get real.

You may not have control over others, but you can influence them.  How much do you feel you can influence your situation by?

What can you influence?  Get clearer on that.

Tip 3:  Practice Having That Conversation with another friend.  Work on your SKILLS.

Imagine trying to build a house. You have some tools, a general idea of what the house may look like, and that’s it.  Hmm!  Well, without some blueprint, you’re going to have a hell of a time!

We can speak, we can talk to others, but sometimes we lack the specific skills on HOW to have that conversation.

I suggest to read more articles on this website (I’ll be posting some soon on how to have difficult conversations).  For now, be resourceful – ask others about your situation and how they would tackle the difficult conversation.

I also suggest practicing with a friend before you have the difficult conversation.  Just a few time practicing helps alleviate anxiety.

Tip 4: Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen?  Work on the degree to which you feel that person is related to your life existence.

If the answer to:  “What is the worst that could happen?” is really bad, then you will feel anxiety.  If we feel people are strongly related to our life existence (our survival) – then we feel like there is a large risk to having a difficult conversation with that person.

Now whether that risk is real or inflated, you will need to decide.  There are people out there who love bungee jumping.  They don’t perceive that bungee jumping as a threat to their existence at all.

Similarly, you may want to work on your fear of the other person’s reaction.

Will that person overreact?  What will happen if they overreact?  Can you handle it?  Can you handle other people not liking you?  Work on this and get OK with it.

A good way to deal with this is to address safety before talking to that person.  

Have the other person agree to NOT blow up or get angry while you talk to them – if they don’t agree, then just let them know “You agreed to remain calm, I will have to revisit this topic with you another time when you are calmer.”

Tip 5:  Do it for your own personal growth.  Work on your commitment to living an empowered life.

Stress is not all bad.  If you don’t have some stress you have complacency.  Stress indicates areas of growth for you.

So understand that having a difficult conversation with someone is a growth area for you.  While the process may be difficult at first, it becomes easier later.

Tip 6:  Forgive your past failings.  Let go of the past, focus on now.

If in the past you tried to have a difficult conversation with someone and you got upset or they got upset, that is OK.  Your past does not equal your present or your future.

If you defined my future based on my past, that would be ridiculous.  I am not the person I was last year or last month.  We are always changing.

So let go of any past “failed” conversations.  You are a different person now.

Tip 7: Practice makes progress.  Take baby steps to work on your anxiety level.

Keep working on pushing your comfort zone.  A difficult conversation you have been putting off may be difficult, but maybe you could chunk it down?

Maybe there are multiple things you want to discuss, but focus on one of them.  Take baby steps, address one of the issues, and work your confidence up to bigger issues.

Hopefully my advice helped!

Share your thoughts about this advice below!  I really want to see if this has helped you out.

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Stay Empowered,



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