Have you ever experienced something like the following:
- It’s tax time, and you hate doing your taxes. You know you need to spend time on it, but you’re scared of what you’ll discover… so you push it off for another day.
- You and your spouse haven’t been talking. You need to address the elephant in the room, but you’re afraid of where the conversation will end up.
There’s a term to describe this feeling. It’s called “fear of finding out,” or FOFO.
What is FOFO?
You might have heard of FOFO’s distant cousin, FOMO: The Fear Of Missing Out. FOFO is basically the opposite.
FOFO is the psychological barrier that stops a person from learning more about a potential problem because they’re afraid, not of what they’ll miss out on, but of what they’ll discover.
Here’s what FOFO looks like in the real world:
- Avoiding honest, deep conversation with someone important to you
- Shunning critical feedback, even though you know it will benefit you
- Ignoring legal or other issues you might not be handling properly
- Refusing to reanalyze or reassess a strategy that isn’t working well
These are just a few examples to illustrate how FOFO could be causing you, your business, and your relationships big problems.
How do you fight FOFO?
Emotions like fear occur almost instinctively, so you can’t control how you feel when they hit. But you can control how you react to those feelings—by focusing on your thoughts.
When you experience FOFO, there are two ways to deal with it:
Option 1: You can allow the emotion, in this case your fear, to control your thoughts.
Option 2: You can take control of your thoughts, which will in turn influence your emotions.
As you might have guessed, option two is the emotionally intelligent one.
For example, consider our opening scenarios (or another one you’re currently facing).
- What are the potential consequences if I continue to ignore this problem?
- How might the best- and worst-case scenarios play out? Is it worth the risk to push this off further?
- How will I feel about this issue a week, a month, a year, or even a few years down the road? (otherwise known as “the golden question.”)
By asking questions like these, you force yourself to face your fear, and to take action. You become active, instead of passive.
So, if you’re dealing with FOFO, remember:
You have a choice. You don’t have to let your fear control you; rather, you can take control of your fear–by taking control of your thoughts.
It’s not the easy way out, but it’s the path that leads to fewer regrets.
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