Does the idea of networking or interacting with large groups of people put the fear of God into you?
If so, you’re not alone. However, you’ve also come to the right place if you’re looking for ways to overcome that fear. It can be done, but you’ll have to put in some effort along the way…
But once you get there, you’ll laugh at why you were ever afraid!
I’ve seen many of my friends go from being incredibly shy in group settings to being social butterflies (with a little help from me along the way :D) For those that are not naturally out-going, rest assured that you don’t necessarily have to be out-going to come off as approachable or to achieve your networking goals in social settings.
So let’s get right into some practical steps you can take master your networking skills!
First: Determine What You are Capable Of
Where do you currently stand on the talk-o-meter while in groups: 1 (Silent as a church mouse) –10 (Wendy Williams). Once you identify your personal level, then decide where you want to be.
Second: Identify the Source of Your Fear
Scared of the ocean because you have a fear of drowning? Makes sense.
Don’t like heights because you’re scared of falling to your death? Ok, I get it.
Terrified of approaching a stranger because they’ll reject you? Let’s discuss…
Fear from the first two scenarios above results from your instinct to avoid bodily harm and possibly death. Fear of being rejected also stems from avoidance of physical harm, but assuming you are at a party or networking event, risk of physical harm is low.
If you strike a conversation with a stranger, there are two possible outcomes: the person will either want to speak with you or they won’t. The worst case scenario, your ego gets a little bruised, but no lost limb or physical scarring. While I’m not downplaying how psychological trauma could lead to physical harm, the fact that you’re reading up to this point means that you’re open to challenging your psychological fears and overcome anxiety resulting from them.
Third: Plan Ahead
Tip 1: Put your fear into context: compared to a fear of drowning, being scared of speaking seems small in comparison. This will get your mind in the right state to overcome the small fear.
Tip 2: Networking requires strategy, planning, and dedication like everything else in life. Feel like you don’t know what to say? Plan out the conversation in advance and have some responses ready to go.
Some people say they get stuck after the provisional greetings. Forming relationships with other people is all about showing an interest in the other person. Feel free to compliment the person. Try to determine things you mutually like or share in common. If you naturally use humor, that will definitely go a long way. Lastly, just act like the person you’re speaking with is a long-time friend, it’ll make the whole process feel more natural and genuine to you, and will help ease any anxiety you may have.
Attitude is EVERYthing in life. If you build something to be a monster in your mind, then you will be forced to slay that invisible dragon. Instead, I encourage you to see networking for what it is. Whether you are connecting with people online or in person, you are dealing with people. Everyone comes equipped with his/her own set of hangups and faults and may be just as self-conscious or nervous as you are. Just breath, follow your verbal plan of what you want to say, and focus on the result that you want: a new friend, potential business contact, new boss, interested investor, etc.
I am fine networking solo or with a wing man/woman. Most people feel more comfortable attending social events with support. If this is you, make sure you get your bestie to join you at the next event. Even if they are only available via Facebook messenger, knowing that you have someone to chat with when you are nervous or uncomfortable will provide solace as you engage in conversation with new people. One thing to avoid: chatting exclusively with one another and closing off any opportunity for others to join the conversation or for you to step out of your comfort zone and start a conversation.
The more comfortable you are in your clothes, the more CONFIDENT you will feel. It is a lot easier to chat and enjoy your surroundings when you are not pulling and tugging at what you are wearing. Finding brands that offer you chic, sophisticated, and professional clothes really help when it comes time to networking!
If you do something a hundred times, it becomes a lot easier. So, don’t get discouraged if you are still struggling with the idea of approaching strangers. You have to keep doing it over, over, over, and over again. If you’re reading this post, then you most likely live in a world where interacting with people is a requirement. Having friends and a social network will help you grow personally and professionally.
I challenge you to go out there and share with the world just how amazing you are.