Have you ever had someone throw a wet blanket on your idea? It's horrible. You come in all excited about something, then someone you care about (your spouse, boss, teacher, parent) responds with anxiety and doubt.
As a hugely enthusiastic person myself, I've had this happen a lot. I used to get hurt and annoyed. But I've come to realize that people aren't intentionally trying to dampen your energy. Sometimes they're just afraid.
Here are five reasons why people are afraid of enthusiasm and how to overcome it.
1. Fear of disappointment.
Many people (mistakenly) believe that if you "don't get your hopes up" you can't ever be hurt. When my daughter was applying to colleges, well-meaning counselors warned, "Don't get your heart set on one school." My daughter's response: "Too late, my heart is already set. I have a back-up plan, but right now I need to be enthusiastic about the dream plan." She also let them know she could handle disappointment. "If I don't get in," she said, "I'll cry my eyes out for two days, then move on to Plan B." It's easier for people to get excited when they know you're prepared to deal with potential failure.
2. Fear of making the wrong decision.
Enthusiasm is scary because it moves fast. People are often afraid in the rush of excitement you (or they) will overlook details.
Informed optimism is a better approach. Reassure people that you're not going to make the final decision today; you're just getting excited about the possibility. Timing is key. Enthusiasm comes first; due diligence comes second. Let them know that your optimism won't color your decision-making. When people see that you're committed to being careful, it frees them up to jump on board.
3. Fear of looking silly.
Some people believe it's more "professional" to temper your emotions. This is a false choice; enthusiasm coupled with accurate information is the best approach. If someone wants to keep things contained, remind them when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone he didn't temper his enthusiasm -- he brought it to center stage, where it spread like wildfire.
4. Fear of being unappreciated.
My friend brought her 20-year-old son back into her home after he had problems living on his own. Her husband, the young man's stepfather, wasn't thrilled with the idea, but he agreed it was the best option. Unfortunately, the stepfather made his reluctance known at every step, thinking that it would make his wife appreciate his sacrifices. She finally said, "If we're going to do this, I'll appreciate you more if you support me with delight rather than reluctance."
Sometimes, people don't realize they're having a chilling effect on things. Let them know that enthusiasm warms your heart and makes you appreciate them more every time they show it.
5. Fear of success.
A friend from a small town says, "People don't like it when someone else gets over the wall." Enthusiasm often means moving above and beyond where you came from. It can make others feel threatened and insecure. They're afraid of getting left behind and also afraid to move forward. Reassure them, "I'm going over the wall, you can come with me, or you can stay here, either way, I'll love you just the same."
Here's the bottom line: Quelling enthusiasm doesn't reduce the risk of disappointment or failure; it only reduces the likelihood of success. Nothing bad happens when you get excited about something.
(c) Lisa Earle McLeod
Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies like Apple, Kimberly-Clark and Pfizer hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales forces.
She is the author of The Triangle of Truth, which the Washington Post named as a "Top Five Book for Leaders."
She has appeared on The Today Show, and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. She provides executive coaching sessions, strategy workshops, and keynote speeches.
Copyright 2012 Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.
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