Learning from comedians:
controlling fear: risk reduction
Comedians have to deal with fear every time they get on stage. And one of the ways they do this is to do as much as they can to avoid things going wrong. You can do the same.
What you’re trying to do, then, in as many ways as possible is take measures to eliminate risk, take steps to reduce unnecessary pressure on yourself. Fear is a lot to do with uncertainty; do all you can to reduce any areas of uncertainty that you can think of. You won’t be able to eliminate them all, of course – there will always be some uncertainty, and that’s great too – but there will be a lot of things you can do to reduce your fear factor and expand your comfort zone.
A highly effective approach to allaying fear lies in the performing comedian’s strategy of anticipating things that could go wrong in your own life situations, and have a strategy ready to deal with each of them, rather than being taken unawares. For instance, comedians often have a repertoire of things to say to hecklers who interrupt them, varying in creativity from “I have the microphone. Shut up” to “Yes, I was like that too, the night I had my first drink” or “Isn’t it annoying when you’re having a really good conversation with your mates, and then somebody builds a comedy club around you and interrupts your conversation?”. You might benefit from having corresponding strategies to address your own problems – like dealing with somebody who causes you extreme stress e.g. a clever put-down, a disarmingly friendly compliment – or bringing along a bodyguard….
For instance, let’s say you’re going out on a date, and you’re nervous about how things are going to go. You could put yourself more at ease by gathering a few ideas in advance – think about what you’re scared of, and have a potential strategy worked out for the worst eventualities. What would this look like?…..
Of course, it’s great to be spontaneous too, but you may find it easier to be spontaneous when you’re basically more at ease because you’ve reduced or removed some of your main worries. Improvisational comedians do this – they are very good at responding in a completely in-the-moment way, but they will usually have built up a repertoire of basic responses which they can also use, and which set them up to be all the more spontaneous. There’s a truism in the world of improvisation – the best way to be completely spontaneous is to be very well prepared.