Do you consider yourself shy? I have always been a bit shy in certain situations, although I’m good at hiding it. It takes tremendous work on my part to not exhibit shyness, which I consider to be my least favorite character trait.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Shyness is the tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people. Severely shy people may have physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, a pounding heart or upset stomach; negative feelings about themselves; worries about how others view them; and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions.”
I have all these symptoms. Not all at the same time, of course, but certain circumstances will drum up the butterflies in the stomach, cause me to break out in a sweat or fumble my words in the midst of trying to have intelligent conversation.
Like many other shy people, I can handle a one-on-one meeting. Job interviews aren’t typically a problem and neither is having a cup of coffee with an associate. However, networking in a large group can strike the utmost fear in me and bring on anxiety.
Determined to defeat the monkey on my back, I’ve done some research to see what others suggest for a way to better manage my shyness.
I could start on Twitter. John Muscarello tells us in his blog, Start Networking Today, that he makes it a point to contact folks on Twitter and shares a short introduction before arranging to meet for coffee. This sounds like a great way to get my feet wet.
CIO.com offers 12 steps for overcoming shyness in connection with professional networking. Meridith Levinson’s article entitled How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People, suggests that a shy person start small and seek familiarity at events with those they already may know. This, she says, will allow them to feel more comfortable when approaching new people.
Levinson notes that shy people tend to meet someone and stay with them through the entire function. She suggests that we ask the people we are with if they know anyone else and if they would be comfortable making introductions. This reminds me of how LinkedIn works. We can all use it to ask others to make introductions to people we want to meet. Once an introduction is made, then we can follow Muscarello’s lead by meeting for coffee when the situation warrants.
Maya Townsend wrote an article for Inc.com’s blog; The Introvert’s Survival Guide to Networking. She offers interesting tips. One that stuck with me was to not have a goal to amass a huge online network, but to think about your network as a group you can depend upon; connect with them not only when you need them, but as they need you.
There are lots of articles out there for shy people who need tips on networking, so it’s not just an isolated few of us out who feel awkward and shaky when having to confront our inner demons. People make a living helping those of us who have these issues. Kim Monaghan, a career coach and syndicated columnist for TheWorkBuzz.com, shares a list of tips for anyone trying to break into networking for its professional gains without the flinch-factor.
There are several common themes to take from the experts.
Be who you are – Being the life of the party or the extrovert isn’t needed for networking. Being your authentic self will bring you more mileage.
Be prepared – Always work on some questions you may wish to ask others and be ready for the questions when they come to you. “What are your latest accomplishments in your current job?” or “What are you working on these days?” are pretty typical questions. Take time to write down a few of your latest accomplishments and practice saying them out loud. But more importantly, always turn the conversation around to be about the other person and how you might be able to help them.
Get out of your comfort zone – This doesn’t mean we have to be someone else and jump into a networking event as the most congenial attendee, but it behooves us shy folks to make an effort to meet new people. Set a goal to meet a minimum of two new people at your next social event. I’ve heard it said that it’s not the quantity of the relationships but the quality that matters.
Be genuine and generous – Being interested in others is the first step to gaining a foothold in a new relationship. Shy people often feel we don’t have much to bring to the table at a networking event, but offering someone your attention is seen as both genuine and generous. This is where questions will pay off!
Follow up or say thank you – It is especially nice to send out a thank you note or other handwritten note as a follow up. Let the person know that you are there to be of service. And don’t forget to connect with everyone you meet in person online on LinkedIn. It is a great way to keep in touch with people you meet and one of the most widely used professional networking tools in the country.
Feel free to share any tips on how you have overcome shyness. You’ll be helping me, of course, and countless others.