Nothing to fear except fear itself…and me.

Image Credit: Velvet Android via Flickr As a teacher, there are many skills one must acquire to survive the madness that is public education. Thick skin and eyes in the back of your head are a few, but no skill is as infamous as the “teacher voice.” Even as adults, most people cringe when they hear that tone—low, slow and with a hint of ice. It’s an art form to achieve the perfect mix of severity and mystery…a tone that stirs fear in the receiver, but at the same time they can’t turn away until they know why the voice is singling them out.

In the short time I was in the classroom, I became a master of the “teacher voice”. Fortunately this meant I didn’t have to use it often. Fear and anxiety are not exactly the type of feelings I care to be associated with on a regular basis.

katie with santa beardAnd yet here I am, more than five years later, listening to friends confess my having stirred similar feelings in them from time to time. Me, the woman who dances in aisles at the supermarket and was recently photographed wearing a Santa beard, strikes fear into the hearts of even the most blunt and thick-skinned folks. People twice my age get chills every time they hear my ask, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I just can’t understand it (and is there really a non-threatening way to ask to chat?).

Naturally I brought this conundrum to my husband…a man who has every reason to fear me on a daily basis.

Perceived Authority

The first explanation he offered was that I am often perceived as an authority figure. Even if I have no direct authority over someone, my willingness to offer opinion and provide feedback can come across as overpowering. The desire to avoid negative feedback, even if I never had given to that individual previously, is enough to cause anxiety.

I find this so utterly confusing. In instances where I possess actual authority, such as over interns, causing fear among these young charges makes sense. Well, sort of. Even though I try to establish myself as compassionate and encourage a fun work environment, it seems nothing ever eliminates the fear. Of course, fellow coworkers have no problem using this to their advantage, as I recently learned the intern’s fear of me was used to dissuade uncooperative behavior.

Watch Out for the Quiet Ones

The second explanation centered on my inability to mask my emotions. I’m completely unable to keep happy secrets (let me tell your birthday gift two weeks early), will always cry at animal videos (oh look honey—the big dog is teaching the puppy to go down the stairs!), and have no shame throwing my hands in the air and swearing when something goes wrong. I’m a flurry of emotions and actions pretty much all of the time.

So when I go dead silent…it freaks everyone the $%#@ out.

It seems the minute I stop bouncing around, revealing everything I’m feeling and thinking, everyone assumes an eruption is coming of epic proportions. Not that I’m tired, or just don’t have anything particular to say—if Katie is silent, batten down the hatches.

I have no idea why this is. Sure, I have a wicked Irish temper, but it has only been witnessed by three people IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It takes A LOT for me to go off the deep end, but yet apparently everyone I know lies in wait for it.

Even after having discussed this with friends and my husband, I’m still left a bit puzzled. Perhaps it’s better I cease trying to discover an explanation and instead use my perceived evil powers for good. After all, if others can use the fear I instill to get work done, why shouldn’t I?

Something tells me though I’d be no good at it though. The minute I try to be that serious, I’d laugh.

Image Credit: Velvet Android via Flickr

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Comments

  1. Brian LaPan says:

    When we speak with confidence, those less confident go into defensive mode. They often misunderstand what’s being said to them, thinking they’re being attacked. They don’t get that another point of view isn’t necessarily an attack.Often, it is given in the hope of making things better.

    In other words, knowing you, Katie, it’s not you. It’s them.

  2. I think it also depends on the person. As an over-perfectionistic person, anytime someone says they need to talk to me in a work feedback related way, I get anxiety.

    • Katie Hurst says:

      There seriously is no good way to ask to speak to someone. The worst is when they say “I need to talk to you about something.” and then wait hours before actually talking to you. Classic manipulation tactic.

  3. You’re one of the nicest people I know and I say that as someone who has seen the “wicked Irish temper”. But it is fun to tease you about it. As far as being intimidating goes, for me that has more to do with your intellect and air of self-confidence than your temper. Looking stupid by foolishly disagreeing with you is what scares me.

    • Katie Hurst says:

      Haha, and yet half the things I say are ridiculous. I think it’s my lack of shame that scares people.

      • Only half? Still, that leaves me with a 50-50 chance of looking foolish. You always sound like you are sure of yourself – how are we to tell the difference? So the point of this post is that we shouldn’t fear you and should feel free to challenge you? Frankly, having survived the incident on Arizona Avenue I’m a little less afraid already. You may regret that.