It's Normal To Be Nervous

by Catherine Brown, President

I am thinking a lot these days about why some people feel nervous when they have to call someone they don't know on the telephone but other people don't mind calling strangers. Why is it that some people have stage fright but others love speaking in front of a crowd and find the experience energizing? We all know that no two people are the same but chances are that SOME aspect of promoting yourself and your products makes you nervous occasionally. Nervousness and the "fight or flight" response to perceived threat has been researched extensively by Walter Cannon. Nevertheless, while it's normal and even human to feel nervous, the feeling can be debilitating in our professional lives and we must tackle this issue and work on addressing it!

Funny story: I have been selling services and recruiting people for work for over 20 years. I also volunteer for a few different organizations that I love, and in my volunteer responsibilities I sometimes have to call people I don't know. A few weeks ago, I was assigned a short list of past donors and I was supposed to make calls to these individuals to:

  • thank them for last year's financial support
  • tell them that this year’s fundraising letter was going out the door and
  • ask them if they were going to be able to renew their gift this year.

Originally, when the organization's Director asked for volunteers to take a few names to call, I thought, "Oh, this will be helpful… I can do that!" When I actually sat down to make the calls, though, the task made me very nervous...even though I've been calling on people for years! When I sat at my desk and stared at the names on the computer screen, I had a freakout moment. (For me, freaking out can mean all the saliva in my mouth dries up and I want to avoid the task, ignoring what I said I would do on behalf of the organization). I asked myself, “What is your problem? Why do I feel so nervous?”  In that moment, I was able to laugh at myself and realize that something was happening that I needed to address. I've learned, in studying how to overcome nervousness in sales, that I can choose to think of this situation differently: procrastination and avoidance were not the answer for me. Reframing the way I was thinking about the work and pausing to take note of my nervousness and its root cause WAS the answer.

The good news is that I did make the donor calls. The people I called were kind on the phone and I've since heard from the organization's Director that the donors renewed and increased their gifts. I hope this story encourages you that everyone gets nervous but not everyone perseveres. Let's be those who persevere!