3 Quick Tips for the Shy Networker

First, I’ve never been a shy person so this advice today is coming from a place of not knowing what shy people really experience.  And the experience seems to be very different to each shy person that I meet.  How do I know that a person that I’ve just met is part of the “shy community?”  They tell me.  That’s how.

Honestly, there is no way to know that a person is shy just by looking at them.  Well, I guess that’s not totally true.  If you see someone off in a corner all by themselves looking bewildered or forlorn, THAT might be a shy person.  If you see someone looking like they are a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car, THAT might be a shy person.  Additionally, those same people could just be either a) anti-social or b) xenophobic (fear of strangers) or c) agoraphobic (fear of embarrassment).

No matter what the underlying reason is for their behavior, shy people who actually show up at a networking event have taken a huge step forward and often need just a little bit of help from the rest of us.  But first, here are 3 Quick Tips for the Shy Networkers among us:

  1. Get a networking buddy to go with you to events until you can build up your confidence.  Of course, you don’t want to be a shadow to your buddy and you don’t want to follow your buddy around like a lost puppy dog.  What you do want is to have your networking buddy introduce you to people and help you get the conversation started.  Once the introduction has been made and the conversation is underway, you need to participate in the discussion.
  2. To be able to participate in the discussion, you have to have something to say.  Suggested reading material would include any book on Small Talk, any book on networking (the grand daddy of them all: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie), current trade magazines, and your local business paper.  Additionally, just know that people love to talk about themselves so the easiest way to carry on a conversation is to ask questions that indicate that you are interested in learning more about whomever you are talking with.  In this way, you won’t have to talk about yourself much (which is something shy people usually are uncomfortable doing)(it’s about the fear of saying the wrong thing, or an embarrassing thing).
  3. If you are shy, try volunteering.  Work at the registration table.  Act as a greeter.  Find ways to be busy and take your mind off of yourself.  When you can focus on helping other people, you won’t have time to be worried about what others are thinking of you.  A little secret here: Other people aren’t thinking of you … they are busy thinking about themselves and you can join them in that endeavor by keeping the focus on them which makes them happy and makes you happy as well!
  4. OK, yes, I can count this is 4 tips when I said I was going to give 3 … If you are shy, seriously – you are the only one who knows that (and the people you tell, of course.)  So, why not tell yourself (and show them) a different story?  Every morning when you wake up, it is a new day.  You can be a new you.  You can attend an event and act confidently.  You can act like you are the host.  You can act like you are worth talking to and you might just be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to feel comfortable in your own skin!

For those of us who aren’t shy, we can help our shy friends by acting as a conduit to connections.  We can take an extra moment to make an introduction … to help get a conversation going … to open up the circle and invite a stranger in.  It might be out of our realm to totally understand what a shy person feels AND it is certainly within our power to help guide them to feel like they are a part of the discussion rather than apart from the discussion!

This entry was posted in First Impressions, Networking. Bookmark the permalink.