If you’re a classic extrovert, meeting people and speaking up probably come somewhat naturally to you. You probably thrive off of interaction, parties and networking at conferences. For me, these were the things that triggered nightmares. At my first time at SMX East, an SEO conference, I spent most of my time just psyching myself up to say hello to anyone or sit beside a stranger in a meeting. By the time I had attended my fifth or sixth conference, I was much more confident doing those things.
As someone who has always struggled with not just shyness but real anxiety problems, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me communicate with others, and hopefully they’ll help you too.
I enjoy cosplaying – literally, costume play. You wear a costume of a character or thing you enjoy – it could be Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, or a favorite video game or cartoon character. The point is you pretend to be someone you’re not. And it’s helped reinforce something I’ve believed for a long time: the power of faking confidence.
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned to do when confronted with a situation that makes me want to hide under my covers (with a kitty, of course) is to just pretend that I’m confident. If walking up to someone and introducing yourself makes you sweat, take a deep breath and pretend that you love meeting new people and this person is going to be a great new friend or business contact. Then, without any more hesitating, go! As in a game of Call of Duty, if you hesitate, you’re toast. Well, you know what I mean. And if you’re called upon to give a presentation but the thought of public speaking terrifies you, fake it. Do the necessary prep work and then delivery your State of the Union, as it were.
If you’re not sure how to strike up a conversation with a new client or you’re nervous about a public presentation, practice. Don’t just mull over things in your head. Get up and practice everything: your walk, your facial expressions, your eye contact (Find a buddy to help!), and the words you will say. Or use a mirror and evaluate yourself. You’ll be much more confident when you’ve walked through a scenario a few times.
Realize things become easier when repeated over time.
Don’t expect your first attempt at overcoming shyness to be as brilliant as Han Solo’s delivery of the famous response to Leia’s “I love you.” (His response, for the unfamiliar was a simple “I know.”). Anxiety may be a continual struggle for you as it has been at times for me. That’s ok, as long as we realize that over time, these things become easier. Walking up to a stranger to network may never come naturally to us, but we will grow more accustomed to the process.
Do or do not. There is no try.
This may sound harsh, but at some point, you will either have to face your fears or not move up the corporate ladder. You simply must develop at least some level of interaction and people skills to succeed, even if you’re a writer or editor who sits in front of a computer most of the time. Take this advice from Yoda. You can do it. May the force be with you.
Laura Lee – Account Manager, SEO Specialist