Updated: May 24
Any of these sounds familiar?
“Maybe I can tell them I’m sick”
“What am I going to say? I don’t know anything”
“What if they ask questions I don’t know?”
“Why did I say yes? ...so stupid!”
“The traffic is bad, ...great! Maybe I don’t have to go, I could blame it on that”
We all experience the butterflies, anxiousness and the ultimate fear of rejection or not “fitting” in.
We all tell ourselves a story about what will and will not happen. Meeting new people and stepping out of your comfort zone, requires a bit of practice and effort. Getting out of the anxiety requires a jolt of confidence, and courage to overcome the “negative chatter”.
We all handle social anxiety differently, here are a few ways that can help...
1. Understand your goals
Why are you going to network? Tossing yourself in the trenches needs a strong why? What are you looking for? If you are doing this to “get out there”, then be clear as to why it is important to you. Write down, what you want from the discussions and how that will help where you want to go, be specific for your career development. If the intent is to interview better, and understand your fit for the role, be specific as to what skill, experience are you trying get more information on. This will be important when you are in a room filled with strangers.
2. Understand who you are and your quirks
Prepare and practice. If you are not good with meeting strangers, prepare for the event, conversations and the encounters. Visualize what the outcome the conversations will give. Picture in your head the story where you come out confident and ready to connect.
If you are not good with ice breakers, learn some random facts, news, things like, “why bees eat their own honey”. You can find these easily on YouTube.
Find out who's attending. Make a list of situations that cause social anxiety in networking. Identify and record your triggers.
Look at the list and prioritize the list based on what triggers you the most, and practice in a safe space. This could be with a friend, or a friendly, “familiar”, social crowd.
3. Be authentic: Once you understand your quirks and who you are, conversations should be natural. Don’t overthink it. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. Let someone tell you about them, be curious, ask questions. No one knows what’s inside your head and that’s a good thing. They won’t know if you are scared, or worried unless you show them. Leave an authentic you. Let’s face it, life isn’t perfect, you will probably do one of these: either say the wrong, miss a word or two, perhaps get flushed, or maybe have nothing to say for a short spell. That is completely OK! And if it does happen… who cares? Feel free to check off the “I AM NOT A ROBOT” box. Go with it...
4. Challenge yourself… What’s the worst that can happen? Seriously…
5. Find your anchor: Social networking can be challenging, especially if you are an introvert or haven't been out there, find something to remind you that you are totally OK and that “YOU GOT THIS!”. It could be a ring, a necklace, a pen, anything. It will help you feel calm and get situated. Say positive affirmations in your head, take deep breaths and just smile. The benefits of just smiling sometimes gets forgotten, but just smile. It will help you relax, release the tension that you are feeling and let others know you are welcoming.
Remember it’s all just a story and you have the power to control how you react to it.