Waiting to Feel Comfortable

Neal Eisenstein, MBA, MCC. Having worked with hundreds of leaders, from high-potentials to CEOs as well as men and women of various ethnicities, countries of origin, levels and functions, a common challenge that professionals struggle with is an often-debilitating mindset that I would describe as “waiting to feel comfortable.”   

This is a fairly simple idea but one that can feel complicated and uncomfortable for so many people. Usually this a problem that has to do with making a phone call, having a conversation with the boss, talking through conflict with a colleague or the team or making a difficultdecision that will likely affect others. The through-line in all of these examples is typically one of taking action, taking a stand and/or developing and executing a plan.

Talking through issues and needs with others can feel like a draining and debilitating exercise for many rising and senior leaders. We tell ourselves, “I’m waiting to be clear enough,” “to find the right time,” “the right words,” or a commonly shared thought within “waiting to feel comfortable” is, “I don’t want to make things worse.” From a coaching perspective, typically, things get worse when we wait too long to give ourselves permission to proactively talk things through.  

Now, fair warning, you may be skeptical about how easy it can be to re-frame this common struggle. You may ask, “it’s this easy?” Yes, it’s this easy. The concept is easy. Fair warning, it takes a bit of courage to assert with our voice and share our needs. Why? Because many of us struggle with our worst fears and anxieties about what will happen if we take a risk, ask the question, ask to be paid what we are worth or challenge the status quo. If you can relate to worries such as a nagging fear of sabotaging your career, alienating a colleague or pissing off the boss, or you are just not very good at understanding your needs and asserting for them, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Focus on the goal of having the conversation, not fixing the problem.

People tend to get consumed with the outcome that they are seeking rather than making the outcome the actual conversation itself. Start with an easier goal, the goal of actually sharing your needs, asking the question, letting others understand how you’re feeling. 

  1. There’s never an optimal time that one feels comfortable enough.  

Forgive that part of you can wait too long to have the conversation. Choose a time to assert where you’ve just gotten good news and when your mood is neutral and balanced and you have access to passion and progress. If you have a lot of emotion and anxiety owing from staying silent for too long or feeling disempowered or confused about something, this tends to make it even harder to break through to action versus waiting to feel comfortable.  

  1. Engage with your boss in the spirit of seeking advice and with curiosity.

Your supervisor can be an extraordinary supporter most of the time when we give ourselves permission to ask questions and share our need for clarity, support, or to feel heard. Asking a question as simple as, “I’m struggling with something, can we schedule some time to talk about it?” or “I’m trying to figure out how this situation evolved to this point, do you have some time to offer me some feedback or your take on this?”

  1. Schedule a discussion with an objective advisor to explore what “waiting” is all about for you.  

There are times in our careers when things are happening, we’re feeling good, empowered, getting and achieving results one after another after another. We also know that there are other times, other moments, when we’re not sure what to do, what to own, how to approach a conversation, or fear the worse outcome possible: “I’m not worthy or capable of doing the job,” or “I can’t be successful here.” 

Take initiative and action to explore these issues in your career with someone who can help you see things a bit more clearly, someone you can learn from, develop more confidence and move beyond “waiting” to executing, to feel more in control and empowered for manifesting the career that you deserve.  

  1. Develop a plan, execute a plan.  

Do what might come more naturally for you in your day-to-day business life. You create and execute plans to achieve goals. Apply this same approach when dealing with areas that don’t come as easily to you. Develop a plan of action and execute it to make progress.  

When we stay in neutral for too long, hoping that others will just “get it,” we tend to run out of emotional energy, bury our needs, and go underground, which never truly serves and never truly feels comfortable. Don’t wait to feel comfortable. Instead, take action to feel comfortable. This usually yields tremendous results.  

To learn more about mindset, communication and developing your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Neal.