Helping Clients Overcome F.E.A.R.

Desperate and scared businessman keeping silence. Concerned young Caucasian man covering mouth with hands and looking away. Fear or panic concept

By Andrew Chalmers.

This post is dedicated to my Dad who, many moons ago, gave me some great advice. Since then, I have told many clients the same thing he told me. On one of our many walks he said, “If you have an ambition in life, take 5 to 10 minutes a day to work on it. Just dive in. Start small and it will grow big.”

Andrew with his Dad, Ralph

I’ve never forgotten this. It became a mantra for me and it’s one I often share with my clients. As a result, I have seen hundreds of clients start working on various projects for 5 to 10 minutes a day with great results. The fact that they have actually started to work on their dream is very inspiring to them. They’re not talking, they’re doing. Within a week or so, the 10 minutes has grown to 30 minutes, an hour, weekends, etc.

It’s a neat “wee” trick, as we say in Scotland.

So, thanks, Dad, for showing me how a positive journey really does begin with a single step.


Every day people ask us questions. 

Every day we ask questions.

We are conditioned to be positive in life. We read the self-help books, watch and listen to various “experts” telling us to be positive, and marvel at the mentors and the wise who know exactly what we need to do to be positive and super-humanly happy.

We listen to all of this, we try and be positive, but how many times do we second-guess ourselves,  imagining a negative outcome. Before even asking an initial question, we anticipate the answer.

Suddenly we are fair ground psychics — mystics with the ability to see into the future and know what’s going to happen. But in spite of the “be positive” culture, if we are truly honest with ourselves, how many times do we not ask the question — a question which, if fully explored, could possibly provide an answer that may enrich our lives?


Fear. Or rather, F.E.A.R.

Fantasized Events Appearing Real.

We think that the answer will be something we don’t want to hear — that it will plunge us into an emotional tailspin. We will be rejected, become outcasts, our parents will disown us, we will be “unfriended” in record numbers, and our fragile egos will shatter like glass.

But what actually happened?

Nothing, my friends. We just “thought” it would. You are what you eat? Maybe. You become what you think? Absolutely!

Many moons ago, I was speaking to my Dad on the phone. I emigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1995 (seems like it was 5 years ago, now that I come to think about it) and after I moved, my Dad and I would have a once-a-week Sunday call to catch up on my Canadian adventure.

I was renting an apartment, but my thoughts had shifted to buying a house. Very adult stuff indeed. My mind raced with visions of me obsessing over my lawn, inviting everyone to our legendary “you must give me the recipe for that” BBQs, and pretending not to be envious when I spotted my neighbor’s new car or house renovation.

The ambition of buying my first home made me feel excited. It also raised the question, “Can I buy a house?” Within a split second I answered the question with “NO.” That was it. Done and dusted. No BBQs or fancy riding mowers for me.

During our next catch-up call, I mentioned to my Dad that I could never be in a position to buy a house.

His reply was very efficient and typically Scottish in nature. He said, “Ask the question.”

I was bemused by this. He was silent.

“Huh?” I replied (“eloquent,” I hear you say).

“Ask the question,” he said once more.

“I just did, didn’t I?” I stammered.

“No. You had a negative answer to the question before you actually asked it. The truth is, you don’t know the answer.”

Dad was right. I didn’t know and, yes, I had answered my own question, “F.E.A.R.fully.” I had immediately jumped to a negative answer to the question and accepted it as reality — a reality that had stopped me from  accelerating along life’s highway of ambition.

It’s worthwhile to consider the ramifications of this phenomenon. How many times do our clients do the same thing? My awareness heightened by the discussion with my Dad, I began to observe that this scenario was a very common occurrence during a first meeting with a client.

“They wouldn’t promote me.”

“I couldn’t manage that team.”

“They wouldn’t like my style.”

“I couldn’t do that job.”

It was amazing how many times I heard these types of statements from clients who were doing the same thing I’d done — automatically presuming a negative answer to a not-fully-explored question.


Our old buddy F.E.A.R.

Fantasized Events Appearing Real.

As practitioners, we have to be very alert to — and wary of — these statements. They can create a false foundation on which we build an inappropriate approach to client career development. As we build a relationship with a client, we need facts. If we start trying to build a positive path forward on negative assumptions, we are building a house on very shaky ground.

On that day, many moons ago, when I had the house-buying discussion with my Dad, I learned something vital. It’s a technique that I now use every day.

I learned to have the courage to ask a question and to answer based on facts and research and not on an impulsive flash of negative emotion. I learned to be aware of that wee devil who sits on our shoulders, whispering scary things to us. I learned to ignore him.

And, I bought a house.

Let’s ask ourselves:

What are we missing out on by assuming a “F.E.A.R.ful” answer?

What are our clients missing out on by assuming a “F.E.A.R.ful” answer?

There is a very interesting response to this. A very simple answer. And because my Dad always told me to “leave ‘em wanting more,” I am going to discuss that simple one-word answer in my next article.

Sorry. I watched too many cliff-hanger serials as a kid.

Andrew Chalmers is set to launch his career coaching company, “Ace the Interview,” a venture that aims to bring coaching and interview support to as many people as possible. Working in nonprofit employment support for 10 years, Andrew observed that in an age of ever-increasing reliance on technology, many clients were losing the art of conversation. Combining holistic approaches with more traditional interview coaching practices, he designed and developed training programs to help clients build confidence though mastery of face-to-face communication skills that get them hired. Andrew has written over 10 screenplays and scripts for numerous television pilots. He believes that everyone has a story and that skilled and caring career development professionals are privileged to be able to assist clients in becoming the stars of their own story. 

Photo by katemangostar on Freepik

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