anxiety guyAnxiety, at its core, is about uncertainty.  We feel anxious when we worry about something that might happen.  We don’t feel anxiety when something goes wrong, only when we foreshadow that something might go wrong.

“Anxiety is a state of distress and/or physiological arousal in reaction to stimuli including novel situations and the potential for undesirable outcomes”

– J Grey, Fear, Panic and Anxiety:  What’s in a Name 1991

High levels of anxiety can have a crippling effect on our performance while low levels of anxiety can actually improve our performance in certain situations.

Alison Wood Brooks of The Wharton School has done extensive research on the effects of anxiety on negotiations.  She concludes that that negotiators who feel anxious expect lower outcomes, make lower first offers, respond more quickly to offers, exit bargaining situations earlier, and ultimately obtain worse outcomes.

In real estate, we negotiate continually both with our clients and on behalf of our clients so our ability to manage our anxiety levels is critical.  In addition to negotiating situations, anxiety can have a disabling impact on business presentations – another frequent and important task of the real estate sales professional.

Perfectly healthy people feel anxiety on a daily basis.  If we can accept that anxiety is a normal part of our emotional landscape and become aware of how it is impacting our performance, we can learn to manage its negative impacts.

Common wisdom says that the best way to overcome anxiety is to calm yourself, but interestingly, studies performed by Alison Wood Brooks et al., conclude that the opposite is true.  Tests showed that people who tried to calm themselves of anxiety prior to performing a new task performed at the lowest level.  Those who tried to turn their anxiety into excitement performed the best.   She concludes that it is easier to turn a high level of arousal from one emotion, like anxiety, into excitement than it is to actually lower your level of arousal.

This has fantastic potential for the real estate professional.  As you prepare for a listing or offer presentation, take a moment to allow yourself to become excited rather than anxious.  Consider the opportunities for success rather than focussing on the consequences of failure.  See the potential of the upside rather than the downside.

By accepting our anxiety and creating awareness about its potential impact, we can change our perspective in important situations and significantly improve our performance.

For more information and background material, see this post from Michael Blanding of Harvard Business School: