The Most Important Thing to Remember Before Your Next Meeting or Event

As the elevator opened to the fourth floor of the Graves 601 Hotel, my mind spun a web of excitement, nostalgia and anxiety.

Earlier that day, my wife had asked me if I was nervous about attending my 20 year high school reunion. I had told her of course not. After all, I’m comfortable with who I am, satisfied with many parts of my life and at peace with my failures. I was just excited to see familiar faces.

But when I stepped into the room there was no denying the nervous tension playing out in my brain:

“Who should I talk to?”
“I can’t remember that person’s name!”
“How do I look?”
“What will people think of me now?”
“Be authentic.”
“Support your wife.”

Little did I realize, though, that shared high school experiences weren’t all I had in common with my former classmates.

Insecurity revealed itself in different ways in everyone’s behavior. Some were withdrawn, some aloof, some drunk before they arrived, others tethered to their spouse, some hiding behind their camera and others behind their accomplishments.

nervous business man biting finger nails

And then it occurred to me: Maybe every room we walk into is filled with insecurity. And knowing that going in could dramatically change our perspective.

If, at every business meeting, church service, kids’ soccer game or networking event, we faced the reality that anxiety and insecurity are everywhere, we might just let our guards down and appreciate each other more. And that means:

  1. We’ll be better conversationalists. At any event, conversation is the foundation for most human connection. And, let’s face it: A lot of people are bad at it. Realizing we’re all insecure might prompt us to ask more thoughtful questions and give more honest answers. My barber had just gone to her 20 year reunion the week before mine, and her advice was to ask fun and interesting questions like, “How have you changed since high school?” or “What have been defining moments for you since we graduated?”
  2. We’ll be more truthful, which is less draining. When’s the last time you heard someone answer the question “How was your weekend” with something like, “We had fun at the movies on Saturday, but later we argued and went to bed resentful. I stewed in my anger and stayed withdrawn most of Sunday, and then I felt so ashamed about how immature I was behaving. How was yours?”
    Let’s face it: We spin, posture and half-truth who we are all the time. Of course, really telling it like it is to that degree isn’t appropriate in all situations, but wouldn’t it be freeing if we could be just a little more honest?
  3. We’ll be less critical and judgmental. Research shows we relish in the flaws and pain we see in someone else because it makes us feel better about ourselves. On the other hand, if we don’t see another person’s flaws immediately, we’re usually hard on ourselves for not measuring up.
    Let’s face it: In our heads, we all have a tendency to be hard on others. And this negativity manifests itself in gossip, shaming and unhealthy competition. Recognizing we’re all flawed and insecure can keep us from being so judgmental about others’ shortcomings as well as our own, real or perceived.

So imagine the next event you’ll attend. What would change if you thought to yourself, before walking into the room:

Let’s face it: I’m insecure and so is every other person in here.



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