It’s easy when you are venturing out of your comfort zone to take one of two options – FIGHT OR FLIGHT. 

We all avoid things that jeopardise our reputation or could make us look like a fool which you don’t feel particularly good about. Sometimes though it is the easiest option right now. At other times though and this is true of a lot of coders, we keep dabbling with trial and error until we crack the code or solve the problem and that feels — fantastic!

As mothers, we tell our children not to be frightened of (what to us at least) is something silly like spiders, getting their hands dirty, falling over etc. Yet every fear is justified and just because I am petrified of horses for example doesn’t mean that you should share my fear and likewise my love of heights and speed, make me a demon on skis but I don’t make anybody chase me down the black run either.

A fear can be avoided but it can also be confronted. Fight or Flight.
Winning the fight makes you feel great, but surviving the flight doesn’t.

Overcoming a fear of horses would be something I would be forced to do if I had a little girl hell bent on learning to ride for example, because I, like most Mums, will do pretty much anything to have a child that is happy, smiling and confident. The last thing I would want to do is pass on my fear of horses to my son, so when a horse goes past me in the narrow path past the local golf club I try to play it cool. In truth though is that my heart THUDS, I tell you, this is hard core! I seem not to be able to breathe, I am totally alert, nervous, I start sweating, I certainly can’t talk or smile. My son knows because my whole body language changes! I can’t hide it. I fear the worst. Yet nothing happens, nothing has ever happened, it is unfounded, illogical and quite frankly, a pain!

Overcoming this fear would make walking down this stupid lane a lot more relaxing, yet I am not forced to overcome this fear – not yet anyway. In this situation I chose to flight and quite frankly it’s pathetic.

So when you have an opportunity at work to speak in English, it might not seem like an opportunity at all because, despite the fact that you can read any technical manual, white paper, proposal etc, actually speaking in English might push you outside of that comfort zone. Now you’re a pragmatic kind of gal and you know that nobody is going to double over laughing like in one of those cartoons, right? There is a little piece of your mind playing tricks on you though, isn’t there? Luring you into a space of uncertainty where you could swear that someone you don’t particularly trust is smirking or struggling not to show amusement at your pronunciation or efforts to speak English.

I know, I’ve been there and when I was in Finland on an ERASMUS programme for a year,  I was absolutely convinced for the first three months that everybody was talking about me. I was totally paranoid about finding myself in a situation that I would not be able to communicate and used to dream about getting lost (my orientation is terrible) and I was certainly no longer the confident chatterbox that people at home knew me as, I had become an introvert. Now I realise that your language levels are higher than that, but the emotions are the same and that is what counts here.

My confidence had been robbed – just because my communication skills had been crushed. I knew that my experience of Finland would be like living in a bubble until I learned the language. I was only going to be there a year but I chose to FIGHT. I did everything I possibly could to learn Finnish. It was hell, there was absolutely no point guessing, you either knew how to say it or you didn’t and in the small town of Kokkola where I was, hardly anybody wanted to speak in English or German unless they absolutely had to and I knew that if I was going to win this fight, I would have to take advantage of that and talk, talk, talk even though every word was an effort! By forcing myself to express myself in this incredibly challenging language, I was exhausted, it was as frustrating as it was rewarding and in less than 6 months, I felt proud to be one of the very few expats living in Kokkola to speak Finnish beyond ordering a beer.

The point is that being able to communicate effectively in another language gives you a massive confidence boost and actually I think it is as much to do with self assurance as it is to do with language skills, that strong speakers of another language gain more respect in the workplace. You can hold your head up high, you are an integral part of the English language communication, your opinion is valued because you shared it and communicated it in a convincing way. You cannot demonstrate that confidence if you are dreading being asked something, can you?

Free expression is like a free card out of mediocre city

If however, like many women that hated English at school,  you find yourself avoiding speaking English at work, you’re only delaying the inevitable.  it’s a bit like hide and seek, at some point your reluctance to speak will be discovered and the longer you leave it, the worse it will be when they find out. If you claimed to have good English to get the job, which is fairly standard practice here in Germany, then your little secret is discovered,  that’s not good.

Protect your reputation fiercely by fighting to overcome any language hang ups.

When the main focus is on protection, then we miss out on one major component of life and that is that MISTAKES ARE THE BEST TEACHER IN THE WORLD and yet you do not need to make those mistakes in front of your colleagues or superiors, hell no, make them with other women in a far away place but women that want to take control of their language hang ups and FIGHT. Those women, are also in technology, so facing the same communication challenges, are increasingly checking in to the facebook page ‘Professional English forWomen in Technology’. Why not check it out today?

Be brave, FIGHT

Because nobody ever felt proud in FLIGHT MODE