January 10, 2018
Everyone says that you have to network to get ahead in business. Whether you are seeking new opportunities, starting a business, or trying to find new clients, you know you need to make connections.
If you’re an extrovert, networking is never a problem. If you’re introverted or shy, it is. Networking events make you anxious. You start the evening with high hopes, but end up feeling you didn’t present yourself or your business properly. Your shyness, fear, or self-doubt took over.
More than 40% of people consider themselves shy or socially anxious, according to Bernardo J. Carducci, PhD. If you’re one of them, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting people, he said in an interview with PsychCentral.
“Shyness is the fear of negative judgment,” writes Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution, which focuses on empowering introverts. It can be debilitating and hinder your success. The business culture loves the “alpha dog”—and shyness implies submissiveness, the opposite of alpha, she says.
Further, as Kathy Caprino points out on Women@Forbes, women in business often struggle to promote themselves. “One of the biggest challenges I see with professional women in particular is an inability (and deep fear and resistance) to talk about themselves in a glowing, positive way. They just don’t know how they’re talented, gifted and special…. They also fear that they’ll sound like a braggart,” she writes.
If you’re shy, how do you connect with people? You can:
If you’ll benefit the most and make better connections from live networking events, look for ways to make them less painful:
Easing your networking shyness will involve breaking down your fears and finding strategies for each one. For example:
One of the most empowering things you can do is to accept that you are introverted or shy and act anyway. Do what you fear, and congratulate yourself afterward.
Shyness is learned behavior—and can be unlearned. Yes, by anyone. “Maybe it’s time to rummage around in your psyche…to figure out what you’re scared of and how to change that,” suggests Sophia Dembling in “The Introvert’s Corner” in Psychology Today.
It will be an ongoing effort, and it may require outside help. But consider what your goals are and let them drive your efforts. Let 2018 be the year you overcome your fear of networking.