When networking face-to-face, the shy person struggles more than others. Breaking the ice becomes an arduous task. Whether you were sent to an event to represent your firm, or you’re there to network for your business, you need to talk to people. But what should you say? Will you be well received? What if you trip on your words, or worse, lose the nerve to approach anyone? Let’s face it; no one wants to appear awkward when trying to make an impression.
The commonly mistaken cure
Self-confidence is commonly believed to be the cure for shyness.
In his blog post “How to Overcome Shyness,” Dr. Alex Lickerman suggests the solution is not what people typically think.
He suggests it’s got less to do with what we think of ourselves, but rather how much we think of others. The key is focusing attention away from this self-absorption, i.e. worry over how people will perceive or judge us, and onto others – especially in a situation of helping people.
It’s difficult to pay attention to your insecurities when you engage with people that need something from you.
Being shy is not synonymous with being an introvert (I’m a shy extrovert myself). Shyness is a behavior, often temporary, based on fear in a social setting. Introversion is rooted in a lack of interest in socializing. So, it’s possible to be a non-shy introvert and likewise a shy extrovert. The former can socialize without fear but prefers not to be sociable whereas the latter wants to be sociable, but may be afraid to engage.
The good news about being shy is; we can get over it.
Four hacks to tackle shyness
- Host a social event. Dr. Lickerman suggests taking the focus off yourself. If you’re the host, people are relying on you to guide them through the event, and you won’t have time to worry about much else.The event can be as large or small as you want, and it’s not difficult to do when it serves a common interest. It can be anything from a hobbyist meet-up to a networking event for local small business owners.You might be tempted to worry about what people will think. Don’t! When you host an event, you’re invested. The attendees who signed up are invested, too. They want something that you’re providing. People don’t sign up for events just to judge other people.
- Show up early. If you’re attending an event, show up early. Being one of the first people in the room helps you warm up to the environment. This puts you at an advantage for helping newcomers acclimate. You’ve been there since the doors opened –you’ve got this! And remember, helping others takes the focus off you.
- Smile until it hurts. How many times have people falsely accused you of being stuck-up or aloof? This misperception occurs when the signals you send aren’t inviting.Smiling is an inviting and relaxing gesture. It signals a vibe of openness to others that you are approachable with little effort.
- Desensitize your fear into oblivion. Attend as many social events as possible. Desensitization therapy is repeated exposure to that which you fear, until the fear is gone. Putting this into practice with social events can achieve this outcome. If you go with a friend at first, set a goal to go your separate ways once inside the venue for a block of time. The goal is to get to a point where you can go to social events confidently on your own.Doing this will lessen the anxiety you feel with each event. Filling your social calendar may wear you out after several rounds. The benefit, however, is that you will be too busy to be so self-aware and your shyness will also get worn out!
So, what’s the takeaway? No matter which of these tactics works for you, shyness is a behavior you can change. It is a learned behavior, not an inherent characteristic.
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