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Three Reasons why it’s good to be Nervous — and one tip on what to do when you are. 21 June 2018

I’m writing this on my lunch break sitting in a plastic chair outside Courtroom 2 at Hove Trial Centre. At any moment after 2pm, a tannoy could summon us into the courtroom itself to hear the verdict in a rape trial. Precisely when this happens will depend entirely on when the jury reaches that verdict. It could be within minutes. Or some time before the court closes at 4pm. Or tomorrow. Or perhaps next week.

I’ve been a journalist for nearly thirty years now, and days like this still make me a little nervous. But here’s why I think that nerves can be a good thing.

  1. Feeling nerves shows you still care. Nerves are often created by an awareness of the emotions around you, and that can create empathy. For the people sitting here, today, this isn’t Wednesday’s news story — this is a defining moment in their lives. It’s good to be reminded of that. (The defendant’s family are sitting downstairs, the alleged victim’s family sitting two rows from me upstairs.)
  2. Conquering the nerves can give positive results. I’ve quietly introduced myself to both families, to reassure them in case they’ve been spooked by my BBC badge, or wanted to ask me anything about the reporting of this case. Yes, it took a deep breath on my part; it always does. But the response has been warmer than you might imagine.
  3. If you’re nervous, you’re learning. As one BBC training guru once told me, it’s only when you step outside your own comfort zone that you add to your skill set.

You may think this is all nonsense, and that confidence is the only emotion you should aim to feel at work. But either way, here’s my tip on what to do when you are nervous.

Smile, and look people in the eye.

Ahead of a big job interview, a public presentation, a sporting performance — or introducing yourself to two families who may not particularly want to meet you — it’s the best way I’ve found of ensuring that nerves recharge my batteries, rather than drain them, and that the charge created is a positive one.

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