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Do you get nervous talking to “important” people?

By Simon Smith, Professional Coach

Do you get nervous talking to “important” people?

Try this simple but highly effective tip to build your confidence & level the playing field!

Most people get nervous when they have to meet or make a call to a “high status” or “important” person, or someone with a powerful sounding title or position. For example, going in to talk to your boss, meeting an ‘important’ person, being interviewed for a new job, calling a new business prospect…

We all get nervous at times – despite what you may think, it is very, very common – very few people truly possess the seamless, boundless confidence so many seem to project.

The key is how to deal with & overcome those nerves. There are many reasons for being nervous, & I could write many articles about it, but today I will share one personal tip which I learnt, that works a treat for me & the many people I’ve shared it with.

When I was an Officer in the Royal Air Force controlling Air Defence Fighter aircraft (over 20 years ago now – wow, is it that long!), I occasionally used to do things a bit differently to what the 1918 RAF rulebook said. I was sometimes considered to be a bit of a rebel in how I did things & how I led my men – hence I now run my own business!

One day, I was… um… a bit of a naughty boy, & upset the (in my opinion, old-fashioned!) commanding officer of the base I was on, as he disagreed with the way I lead my team (although funnily enough he was conveniently quite happy for me to cover for him while he went away on holidays for a few days though!).

Unfortunately (for me), he was a higher rank than I was. As a result, I had to go for a telling off (do the Carpet Shuffle, as we used to call it) from the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), the man in charge of the entire UK Air Defence Forces – equivalent in rank to an army 5-star General. I was very nervous, as you can imagine.

Just before I went in, a previous boss who I’d always respected (he was a bit of a rebel too, and I guessed he’d also got caught like I had!) came over for a chat.

The advice he gave me is the tip I am about to share with you – a tip that has stood me in such good stead ever since.

He said, “Simon, let me give you a little advice that someone gave me when I was in a similar situation many years ago” (I guess he hadn’t always got away with it!).

“When you walk into the AOC’s office, imagine the AOC is sat on the toilet with his trousers round his ankles, straining away & trying to have a s#@t. No need to be intimidated, he’s just another human being and s#*#s & f#rts like the rest of us.”

He then smiled knowingly, winked & walked off, leaving me laughing.

Before I went into the office for my Carpet Shuffle, I imagined exactly what he said. My nervousness completely vanished – in fact, it took all my effort not to smile & burst out laughing when I got in there (that would definitely NOT have helped my case!).

Ever since then, when I’ve had to face someone I felt was of a higher status than I was & feel nervous, a bit out of sorts or even downright terrified, I remember that advice. It helps level the playing field. And it always makes me feel more relaxed & confident. Plus it always brings a smile to my face.

Try it for yourself – but be careful & have an answer prepared when they ask what you’re smiling about!

Simon Smith, founder of Southern Cross Coaching & Development Pty Ltd was recently honoured by the International Coach Federation Australia as their Coach of the Year 2013. for more career advice and personal development information visit his website:

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