Applied EQ4PM #1: Using Self Talk to Break Out of your Comfort Zone

I had a great phone conversation with Kathy Schwalbe today.  Kathy is the author of several books.  Her best-known book is Information Technology Project Management.  This is an excellent textbook and one I used for a class I taught at Northwestern University.

The thing that makes this text unusual is that it is extremely readable.  As you probably know, this is quite uncommon for books on project management.  For some unknown reason, most project management textbooks are simply unbearable which sets a low bar for our profession.  Even the ubiquitous Guide to the PMBOK, which has become MUCH more readable in the 3rd edition, is written for insomniacs.

Kathy has a new book coming out called Introduction to Project Management.  This should do for general project management what her other book did for IT Project Management.

What does my call to Kathy have to do with applied emotional intelligence?  Plenty!  There was a time when I would be too afraid to make contact with someone like Kathy.  After all, she is a well-known author on IT Project Management and a professor at the Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  (I believe) she is very busy and too important for phone discussions with me.  In fact, that is my general belief about most people- they are too busy for me to interrupt or to ask for help.

And so it was no surprise that I was very nervous about calling her.  I was even scared to reach out to her via email to arrange for the call.  And as the time for our call drew near, I found myself stalling and nearly missed the call altogether.

What did I do about being so scared?  Well, it helped to just acknowledge that I was scared.  I recognized that I was scared and even in a bit of a panic.  That ability to see myself in fear, almost as an outsider would see me, helped me to calm myself.

Then I did a bit of self-talk.  “Yes you are scared,” I said to myself.  “Of course you are, you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.  And when you push outside your comfort zone, you get scared.”

That little bit of self-talk and a deep breath was all I needed to calm myself down.  In less than a minute, I was feeling at peace and ready to make the call.  When I did call, I was prepared and confident.

I believe we all have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  We have to recognize the things we are afraid of and understand why we fear them.  Then we need to find ways to push through our fear.  As Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain”.

Applying emotional intelligence techniques, like self-talk, is one of the ways to push through our fear.  This is what applied emotional intelligence is all about; being aware of how we are feeling in the moment, using that emotional information, and managing our emotions. Self-talk is just one of the applied emotional intelligence techniques I could have used in this situation.