Dear Bonnie,

My office team is planning a golf outing. Initially I felt excited to be included, but as the date approaches, the initial excitement is turning to nervousness. I have never played with co-workers before, and in this case my colleagues are all men. I want to start using golf as a business tool, but I am worried about how the round will go. In addition to the possibility of me not playing well, these men often play together, and I am feeling like an outsider. Any advice on how I can allay my nervous feelings? Thank you

First, let me congratulate you on being included in the game with your male coworkers. This is an exciting opportunity to begin using golf as a business tool, especially when it is a desire of yours. It is also an opportunity to bridge the gap between office formality and off-the-clock-casualness. In fact, the entire game affords you an opportunity to demonstrate how you show up in the world in any given situation. On the golf course the infinite possibilities could include a game going south, an awkward remark by a coworker or a moment when the conversation slides into politics and your views differ from the group.

I suggest instead of using your mental energy worrying about how the game could negatively play out, you utilize your awesome human brainpower to envision how you want your game to go.  Our brain’s ability to change our thoughts, which change our feelings, which in turn change our actions and results, is one of life’s “secret sauces”, and can be used in any situation, on the course and off. We can learn, with practice, to change our thoughts about a person, or circumstance, to create whatever feelings we want to experience. It’s all about thought management, which by the way is what golf is mostly about too.

To dissolve your nervous feelings and build your confidence, I offer you start thinking, and most importantly start believing, that whatever happens on the course, you will show up as the person you want to be. When challenges arrive at the office, I sense you are confident that you can handle them. Practice thinking and believing you are the same capable person on the golf course, as you are at the office, no matter what occurs in the course of the game.

It’s not so much what is on your scorecard that will leave an impression on your coworkers; it’s how you show up for the game and each of its challenges.

You may want to spend a little “mental practice time” beforehand envisioning how you want to handle any worrisome scenario that you think could present itself on the course. As you envision yourself handling any challenge with confidence and calmness, ask yourself what would I need to be thinking to create those feelings of confidence. Practice believing those thoughts now.

As an example, let’s look at how you might respond if one of the earlier mentioned possibilities happens to occur. If your game is heading south, and you start thinking thoughts, such as:

  • This is embarrassing
  • I’m not good enough to be here
  • They won’t invite me again

You might choose to think instead one or more of the following replacement thoughts:

  • This happens in golf to everyone who plays
  • It’s part of the game and I can handle it
  • I imagine my co-workers are glad it’s me and not them
  • I’m going to look for the humor in this

When you practice thought management in uncomfortable situations, you will notice a subtle shift in your body and your feelings. Your body will relax a little, your head will begin to clear and your feelings will align with how you want to feel. You will then be able to act from those feelings (i.e. confident, calm, amused, or whatever you choose), rather than from a place of unease.

Replacement thoughts work only if you can believe them, and usually work best if you think of them yourself.  However, if any of the above thoughts resonate with you, please use them, if the need arises.

Once you get the idea of replacement thoughts, don’t spend a great deal of time on “what if” scenarios that may never happen, and focus more on the reasons you can look forward to the game.

I also suggest you begin changing your thoughts on feeling like an outsider. Keep in mind; you were invited to play with this group. They invited you “inside.” Believe it or not, as the game draws closer, one or more of your male coworkers may be having similar thoughts about playing with you, a woman.  Demonstrating confidence and being comfortable in your own skin, no matter how the game plays out, will help your co-workers feel even more at ease with you, and can strengthen working relationships in the office too.

You got this!

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