Afraid of something? Guided Mastery can help.

Imagine this. You are with a group of friends having good time. Suddenly you see a snake around. What would you do? The obvious response is that most of us would get panicked.  Fear will grip us during that moment. By the way even if it is not a Afraidsudden moment with reference to snakes, most of us would still fear dealing with the situation.

Like the snake situation, there are some areas in our personal and professional life where we have similar fears.

So is there a method that can help us overcome or reduce these anxieties or fears?

Guided Mastery :

Famous psychologist Albert Bandura used a method way back in 1969 that helped people overcome snake phobia in just 45 Albert Banduraminutes. He would later call this method the ‘Guiding Mastery’. What the participants did was this:

  1. They would watch through a 1 way mirror while the experimenter interacted with the snake.
  2. When the snake went back to the glass cage, the participants would sit in a room and watch the experimenter deal with the snake for some more time. Participants were allowed to use their own pace to get comfortable with the situation.Guidance
  3. Gradually the experimenter would model more interactions with snake and encourage the participants do the same.

This process helped the participants overcome their apprehensions and fear. Of all the methods Bandura tested, this method produced lasting results for the participants. Their success in gradually overcoming the fear of snakes has helped them build greater confidence in overcoming the other problems they faced in life.

Guided Mastery @ Work :

What if you and I choose not to go to snake park and have an immersion experience with snakes to build confidence in work related areas?. Areas like sharing our point of view in meetings or giving presentations to seniors or dealing with difficult stake holders or anything for that matter.

Here is what Albert Bandura quotes:

Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling from others.”

Through keen observation; effective modeling methods; using step by step approach and committing ourselves to regular practice it is possible to overcome anxiety and build confidence gradually.

So here is a recap of steps:

  • Observe and model the behavior of the person who is successfully dealing with the situation where you wish to build your strength.
  • Break the learning into chunks. This means break it into tasks and sub-tasks. To give a cricketing analogy, perfecting Cricket shotone shot at a time.
  • If possible ask the person who you are observing and modeling to jointly do the task with you for your better comfort.
  • Perform the feared activity for smaller duration initially and gradually increase the time span.
  • Build regularity in your practice.

Try these steps with something that you always wanted to overcome and share your experience if it works for you.

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4 replies on “Afraid of something? Guided Mastery can help.”

  1. Bhushan very well written. I think this is an accepted training model in most of the companies.

  2. Nice to know the interesting term for it ‘Guided mastery’, we call it as hands-on training though not sure if it can produce masters that way. But I have a double here, will it be effective for soft skills as well? Like articulation, handling difficult conversation or coaching. Demoing 1 or 2 samples would be good enough to achieve them, where every situation can be unique?

    1. Hi Harish, it may work in soft skills as well. What I understood of guided mastery is that it addresses the area where one wishes to overcome his/her fear and gain confidence. So while a person may have used it for one situation, the confidence he/she would gain out of the process may encourage the person to apply it in other situations as well.

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