A fear of authority figures is a specific type of social anxiety and one that is common in our society because of the way we are raised and the importance our culture places on social structures. It combines sudden shyness with a lack of confidence and other social anxiety symptoms such as blushing.
Even if we feel comfortable and confident when talking to our peers, add authority into the mix and we can suddenly behave completely differently.
The added social pressure makes us feel nervous, afraid of doing, saying or acting incorrectly and of damaging our own reputation or social standing.
This is especially common at work. Many of us might struggle to talk to our boss when we pass in the corridor, feeling like we’re acting completely differently to usual. This can be extremely damaging to our reputation, professional relationships and careers.
These issues often stem from a fear of being negatively evaluated, embarrassed or humiliated, found inadequate and rejected. As children we are taught to respect and sometimes even fear, authority figures and occasionally as adults, we can revert back to these feelings. We feel smaller and more insignificant as the apparent magnitude of the person and situation grows.
The symptoms may also stem from a traumatic experience where a person in authority has made you feel embarrassed, humiliated or rejected or a conditioned response which has left you feeling judged and powerless.
It’s important to understand that these are still people, most of whom used to be in your position. They usually want to be communicated with and if you are uncomfortable it makes them uncomfortable too.
The importance we place on people because of their job, social position or money is given to them by others. It is our own perception that gives them their power and hold over us.
Tips For Talking to Authority Figures
Here are a few tips that might help you when dealing with authority figures.
- Focus on the person – not the power
- Avoid defensiveness
- Ask questions and answer questions when asked
- Be aware of body language – don’t step back, make appropriate eye contact
- Relax and learn to control nerves
- Trust their guidance
- Dissociate fear and anxiety with symbols of authority
- Concentrate on the positive and what you have in common
- Remember this person goes home at night just like you
- Don’t be afraid to be assertive when necessary
My hypnotherapy is extremely effective with issues like this as I’m able to get to the root of the issues and provide help within very few sessions. Fear of authority is a learnt behaviour with deep associations but the mind can be retrained.
If you’d like to feel more confident when talking to people in authority please do get in touch to find out more about how I can help.