Angstgegner – a German word, hard to translate, something like an opponent, that scares me

On the subject of anxiety, I recently had an exciting learning experience when it came to recognizing one’s own fear and that of one’s employees in a workshop atmosphere and deriving measures for dealing with it.

In the reflection phase within this workshop, my flashback went back more than 45 years and I saw and felt in a football match situation that is still present to me today.

  • Youth League – I was 15 years old, last league game against a team from midfield of the table. We ourselves only had to win the game as league leaders to make the championship clear. Many expectations rested on me, the team’s top scorer.
  • And then the game. We lost 1-2. I couldn’t get over my nervousness and felt paralyzed. Heavy legs, weak knees. The championship was lost and I felt responsible for it.

I later became a football coach and had this situation in mind again and again. Taking away my players’ fears and building their confidence was part of my job. This is so easy to say, especially when you are facing a fearful opponent yourself.

Because fear can actually be contagious. First of all, as a coach, I had to recognize and cope with my own fear.

My method of taming fear was analytical. Thinking about where our strengths lie and letting corresponding positive game situations play out in my mind’s eye. This helped me to calmly prepare my speech to the team positively and to align my body language signals accordingly – authentic and honest and optimistic.

And this works in sports as well as in business, for example in change processes: I first convince myself with the view that the glass is half full (as opposed to half empty). And then I use that for my personal communication strategy to the stakeholders without hiding the disadvantages, but with a narrative of how to overcome them.

And who is your Angstgegner?

My thanks for the inspiration for this article go to the workshop design team and at the same time facilitators Anka Commichau, Dr. Elisabeth Krieg, Dr. Frederike Wenzlaff and Ines Avenarius.

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