Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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When I was accepted into law school, I received a brochure that offered a lot of information about the program. It also included a letter from then-acting dean. Frankly, I skimmed it. I was more focused on course descriptions and figuring out where I was going to live. My lawyer dad, however, gave the dean’s letter his full attention. After reading it, he pulled me aside and said, “did you see this?” He then read one specific line aloud: “we are here to teach you how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable” (full disclosure: this may not be the exact quote —it was more than 20 years ago).

At the time, I wasn’t sure why my father was making such a big deal out of this phrase. I soon learned that getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is crucial, particularly when it comes to communication. Getting comfortable with the expressing your opinion. Getting comfortable with speaking in front of people. Getting comfortable with doing something that you’ve never done before. Getting comfortable with making a mistake and moving forward.

When I work with my clients, we spend a lot of time focusing on concrete tools designed to accomplish this goal, from using specific structures to craft content to establishing personalized pre-performance rituals. That said, don’t be fooled. It is never “comfortable.” As Mark Twain said, “ [t]here are two kinds of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars.” The goal is to have reliable, step-by-step skills to cope with the inevitable butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, and shallow breath. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is the name of the game.

Heather TownsendComment