“Controlling Performance Anxiety”- 13 March 2012

Rucha was always tense before doing a job that involved speaking in a meeting. She was also tense when she had to meet new people on the job. Her colleagues had started to joke about her temperament and her body language. She would worry about her assignment and become tense and nervous. That would show on her face too. Speaking to friends was fine but she was terrified of making formal announcements even if the group was small. She hated being watched and became very conscious of herself. Surprisingly she had been a good debater in school and college as well but she never realised that this task would be an altogether different cup of tea so to say!

Speaking in public is a difficult task that is recognised globally. It is not a task that comes easily to many. Most people are terrified of it. But leadership positions require a fair amount of speaking in public and motivating others. For some it may come naturally but the percentage of natural performers are very few. Most speakers train themselves with difficulty and with a determination to do it well if it is a necessary and essential part of the job profile. I remember some people who have delayed and even declined promotions on the job as they feared the task of having to face groups and speak in public! It is indeed a difficult task which is high on the ladder of external stressors.

But any task could be a source of stress depending on the type of personality, the work experience and the development of the skill that is needed. It is hence important for people to analyse the nature of work into the type of skills that are needed and work towards the development of them. The skills could be of technical nature or people oriented skills, which is now called soft skills, I wonder why. Whatever it may be this factor of continuous learning is imperative if one is to be effective and in control.

Learning on the job in a natural manner may not happen to all people if the personality is built in a certain way. This is a common enough myth. Some may take many years to unlearn and re-learn and some may never learn at all in spite of all the several years of work experience. This happens when there are wrong ideas in the head that require understanding or there are emotions that act as blocks. Or there are personality traits that are deep seated and rigid to change. Many skills need to be learnt or coached by a trainer and needs to be done soon enough to become competent.

Any performance is accompanied by little or more anxiety. Anxiety is helpful in motivating us to perform better and prepares us for the job. A necessary amount of anxiety is helpful in making us better workers. All good performers experience anxiety before the act. Even the mighty Sachin Tendulkar would talk of the nervousness he feels before the beginning of the match. And hence he is fully focused on the job as he enters the arena. He must have developed his own way of controlling it, calming it and concentrating. Similarly someone of the stature of Lata Mangeshkar who has been singing all her life will also experience anxiety as she decides to perform on stage or even go for a studio recording. This is positive anxiety that helps improve the performance. When it is controlled and focused on the specific task at hand it pays well for us. It becomes negative only when it goes out of control and you lose confidence in self.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *