How to stop worrying about what other people think!
I was spacing out on my drive today when a car raced by me, the passenger flipping me off.
I thought, “How rude! What the heck did I do to deserve that?!” Here I am, minding my own business, cruising along at a respectable speed of…oh, wait, I was going like 55 in a 65 zone. Okay, so that guy was totally mad at me and I was CLUELESS. He was fuming and I was just coasting along, la-de-da.
We do all sorts of annoying things to one another, and most of the time we’re totally clueless that we’re doing anything “wrong.”
That guy on the highway thought I was doing this just to make him mad, just to stand between him and wherever he was going.
I wasn’t thinking about him, I didn’t even realize he was there.
Common worries and how to take action
Most people aren’t thinking about you unless you do something that affects them.
They’re really busy, obsessed even, thinking about themselves.
And yet we still worry so much about what other people think!
Here are some of the most common worries I hear and a way to reframe them into positive actions.
YOU’RE THINKING: Do I sound credible?
THEY’RE THINKING: Should I speak up now to show that I’m listening and can contribute to the conversation? Or should I stay quiet until the Q&A section?
What you think — “I’m afraid that everyone will think that I don’t sound credible…Or maybe they think I’m amazing and confident and know what I’m talking about!”
What you say — The best way to sound credible is to practice what you’re going to say. Say it out loud, not in your mind. I promise you two things: it will sound different when you say it out loud, so don’t skip this step. And when you say it out loud over and over, your rehearsals will help you go into auto mode when you speak, making you sound credible and confident.
What you do — Tone of voice is important to sounding credible. Record yourself practicing to assess you tone of voice to be sure you aren’t using an uplift at the end of your sentences (this is when the end of every sentence sounds like a question) or talk too softly.
YOU’RE THINKING: Am I going to say the wrong thing?
THEY’RE THINKING: She sounds so articulate; I wish I could sound so confident when I’m speaking.
What you think — “I’m afraid that I’m going to get up there and say the wrong thing…Or maybe all that practice time I put into this will pay off so I sound clear and confident.”
What you say — All humans say the wrong thing. Just know that it will happen. It’s how you recover that’s important. Most of the time an apology is unnecessary. Replace, “I’m sorry…” with the correction itself, “I meant to say X instead of Y,” or “Let me clarify what I just said.” If you MUST apologize, only do it once and move on. Please don’t refer back to your mistake. Just move on.
What you do — The best way to get prepared is to practice!
YOU’RE THINKING: Do I look okay during this presentation?
THEY’RE THINKING: I wish I had worn a suit today, I should be quiet and not draw attention to myself because I’m wearing jeans.
What you think — “I’m afraid that I’ll look nervous during this presentation…Or maybe all that time I spent practicing standing up straight in my power pose will pay off and they’ll think I have excellent posture!”
What you say — In certain circumstances one self-deprecating comment about your outfit is allowed. I sometimes make jokes about my bangs when I pull them back because every single photo of me in my profiles shows me with bangs. Do people like it? I don’t really know but I think it makes me approachable. If I do it more than once, though, it makes me seem self-obsessed.
What you do — Wear the uniform that will help you fit in to your surroundings. Because we’re tribal by nature, humans are attuned to the subtle differences that make you an outsider. There’s a reason certain professions wear uniforms. Doctors wear lab coats to increase their credibility. Studies support that this works and that you’ll feel more confident if you’re not thinking about your outfit.
YOU’RE THINKING: Did he just interrupt me because he knows what a fraud I am?
THEY’RE THINKING: I hate it when that guy interrupts me when I’m speaking, it is so annoying. Maybe I should back her up. Or maybe I should be quiet, I don’t want to cause any friction.
What you think — “I’m afraid that he’ll interrupt me because he knows what a fraud I am…Or maybe he’ll interrupt me because he interrupts everyone, but I will be prepared for it and know how to retake control of the meeting.”
What you say — There are polite and firm ways to retake control of the conversation, but that starts with your confidence to NOT go into a spiral of self-doubt that leaves you speechless. When you get interrupted, and you will get interrupted, work on a standard reply such as, “I’d love to address that when we get to Q&A. We have a limited time, so I’d like to continue.”
What you do — Responding to interruptions is a tricky business. Stay strong, stand tall, and use your body language to project confidence when it happens.
The bottom line
Most people you work with are busy obsessing about themselves. They’re not thinking about you unless you do something that affects them. So stop worrying so much about what other people think!
No one is thinking about YOU except YOU.
It’s kind of a relief, right?
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Originally published at melissahereford.com on June 10, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com