Q: I always get nervous before and during client calls, especially with new clients. I just want to get the call over with. How can I handle this?
A: Keeping your mind in the present moment will help ease this situation.
The inner game
The types of nerves you describe result from imagining a possible future that likely will never happen. If you find you often dwell on past events or project into the future, it's time to change that habit.
So, right now, get into the present. Sit somewhere comfortable and feel yourself in the chair. Close your eyes and notice the sounds around you. Feel your breath move in and out. Settle in for several minutes; when your mind intrudes, bring your attention back to your breath.
Notice how it feels to be fully engaged in the present. For most people, problems or worries become less pressing, and planning for the future becomes more reality based.
At the risk of disrupting your serenity, now reflect on the specifics of your nervousness. What are the stories you tell yourself about what might happen? What are you most afraid of? Perhaps you have a strong need to be liked or to come off as the expert. Acting on inner drivers like these can have negative effects beyond their effect on your feelings, so it's worth working through them.
Now think about some recent meetings. What has triggered nerves for you? I'm curious if meeting new people always brings up some anxiety. Notice any other factors that seem to be consistent so you can plan strategies to manage them.
The outer game
As you prepare your material for a meeting, also prepare inwardly so that you're ready to be engaged. There are some steps you can take that will help keep your nerves from interfering.
• Learn about the people you'll be meeting. Take a few minutes to look on LinkedIn or ask other colleagues about them. It'll make them seem more human to you.
• At the same time, be curious about them and ready to learn from them.
• Be grounded in what you bring to the meeting, but take away any pressure you feel to be perfect.
Visualization is also a powerful tool. Imagine the meeting, picture yourself walking into the room or dialing into the conference line. See yourself as strong, engaged, relaxed and comfortable. Imagine yourself being asked questions, knowing that you can adequately respond. Picture your ideas connecting as you outline your point of view. Athletes use this approach … it will work for you, too.
Right before the meeting, take a few minutes to focus in the present, let go of concerns and be ready to be with the people in that meeting. Use your breath to return to your center before the meeting and, if necessary, during the meeting. Focusing on your breath is wonderfully discreet — no one needs to know.
It takes time to change habits. If you find your mind wandering to "what ifs," gently bring it back to the present. Also notice when it doesn't happen, and acknowledge the accomplishment.
The last word
Anchor yourself in the present to cut your nerves and become even more effective in your role.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.