If networking is to work for you… there is no time to be shy! It’s a social phobia you cannot afford!
Wallflowers can blossom even in networking meetings. Some adults are truly crippled by timidity. They blend in with the wall. Others I call, “shy extroverts.” They are the shy people who push ahead and even though they may be a little fearful or anxious, make themselves known by masking their shyness by putting their hand out there, offering a firm handshake, and introducing themselves to strangers. Many are anxious because they are afraid they won’t meet expectations of others in some way. At extremes, anxiety can cause palpitations, excessive sweating and an occasional panic attack.
The networking jitters when you are on wallflower duty can cause your nervous system to ruin your career. Put yourself out there. This seems obvious – the best way to meet people is to actively seek places out where you can meet people! Here are a few tips that may help.
Stop saying your are shy! That is the recommended first step. It’s debilitating and often causes the situation to be more negative than it really is. You must change your mantra. Recite positive messages to yourself before engaging in situations you dread. See yourself being calm and in control.
Take a moment to look at yourself. Do you look like someone who others would like to meet? Some professionals recommend that you Wear brighter clothes by brightening up your wardrobe.
Remember to breathe. Take an oxygen break. Taking deep, measured breaths before you enter the networking meeting or event can help you to literally calm your nerves long enough to stay focused and in control. I recommend breathing in your your nose and out through your mouth. Breathing this way has a calming effect because it short-circuits your brain and causes you to think about something other than what you’re nervous about.
One of the most important aspects of shyness and social phobia is to focus your attention outward… not on yourself. Always be interested and interesting by paying attention to others. If you see something or someone that you can compliment sincerely, say so.
Look for others that may be standing on the sidelines. Dare to strike up a conversation with them. Most likely they will welcome the company. Share a few personal things about yourself, e.g., hobbies or something interesting that you have done, etc. Avoid controversial political issues or your resent divorce. Such topics are too emotionally charged to make for productive small talk. Need some ammunition? Be up on local issues or the latest score of the Arizona Diamondback game.
My friend, Susan RoAne, another networking professional and author of “How to Work a Room” says, “I’ve heard so many people denigrate small talk but small talk is how we learn about the little things that help us decide whether or not we want to pursue a relationship with someone.” Small talk often results in bid rewards.
Begin the conversation by asking questions. “How may I help you?” is a good one to ask after you’ve commented on the hors d’oeuvers and introduced yourself. Be more assertive and be approachable. Always wear your best smile. People tend to avoid people with a sour expression on their face.
What do you do in your personal life to bolster your confidence? You can overcome shyness. The quickest way is to feel the fear and do it anyway! Join Toastmasters or enroll in the Dale Carnegie course. That will help you to come out of your shell and be more at ease.
Larry’s NOTE: A special “Thank you” to Lisa Cahn for contributing ideas to this article.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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