An Introvert’s Guide to Networking and Anxiety
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Relax. Relax. BREATHE! Oh no, oh no! Gah!
Anyone that exhibits the introvert type can tell you how nerve-wracking it can be in a social environment. Scenarios like going out to eat, sporadically finding yourself in a conversation with a stranger, or being asked to participate in a group project can send your stress skyrocketing and, being the introvert type, makes you want to curl up and dip out back to safety.
The problem you now have in business is what on Earth will you do for network.
Networking needs you to be social whether it’s in one-on-one environments or big, massive conventions and get-togethers. The thought alone can have you running an endless thought stream of doubt but, really, there is hope.
I can’t say this is going to work for everyone that fits the type but coming from my experiences (one which I actually have anxiety attacks in many social situations) I believe there will be at least a few strategies and ideas that will greatly help your ability to connect.
Play a Game with Fight-or-Flight
One of the best strategies I learned came from a friend that happened to be social but if you knew him he was actually one of the biggest introverts I had known.
His suggestion was this:
You have to make a game out of the animal reaction of fight-or-flight. Every part of your being is going to tell you to run away. It’s powerful. But if you can identify these feelings as they creep into your mind you can do battle with them much like a game. For every move it makes at you – you counter. Eventually you begin to have fun from playing the game because each time you succeed you get a boost of adrenaline which gets you excited for the next challenge.
Whenever I’m out and about I try to remind myself of this suggestion and it’s helped a ton. Even when I feel out of place I can catch myself slipping to the stress and then pivot so I charge forward.
Start Casual and Radiate
Try to find a small group of individuals to begin networking rather than taking on the monumental task of online networking or doing so on conference floors.
There are plenty of opportunities out there:
- Local business clubs (of just a few people)
- Sitting down with a few at a coffee shop
- Accompanying a small group at a hotel lounge for drinks
- Joining a club
- Starting a small, niche mastermind group
You can pick and choose your battles – in this case, groups – which lets you qualify whether you feel you’re up to the challenge. With a bit of research you can find out about the people in the group so you feel less awkward when you finally join the conversation.
From there it’s a matter of radiating from the group. The easiest way to do this is by asking others if they had a friend or two that would like to join. Slowly but surely you will create a tight-knit group of individuals you can be proud to associate with and gain through networking.
Use (and Experiment with) Social Media
Don’t worry about amassing a huge following on your social media accounts.
Work on building real relationships one at a time because 100 true followers are a helluva lot better than 1,000 that fail the care, right?
Twitter will allow you to be the most impersonal if you’re truly feeling shy. From there I would recommend placing efforts into Facebook where you can get to know people a little easier. Once you’re comfortable with these two platforms it would then be a spectacular leap if you began producing video.
You will have many, many doubts about showing your face and hearing your voice on video but it’s a skill like anything else and you will get better with time. As time goes on you will become comfortable, too, which means you could then transition to doing live video streaming or chats.
The best part of it all is that if you use your analytical skills from marketing you can collect data on what makes people social within your circle. Once armed with extra data you shouldn’t have a problem striking up conversations because you’ll have learned many of their interests and goals.
Conclusion & Further Reading
As I mentioned when I began this piece – I’m not the most social individual – but I do make strides to push myself out of my comfort zone because there are so many great benefits from networking:
- New business opportunities
- New ways to gain feedback
- New ideas for work
- New, cool friends
You may always have that nagging feeling in the back of your head that you need to bolt from the conversation and situation but if you can overpower them, embrace the stress, work on it one-by-one, and use the tools around you then you’ll find it to be well worth the effort.
Here are a few additional pieces of reading as you go:
So, are you an introvert? What helps you with networking?