The world can be a scary place when you find it difficult to connect with others or meet new people, and communicating with clients makes your heart race (not in a good way).
Sure, you could skip meetups, conferences, and parties, and hide behind the copy machine whenever a colleague passes you in the hallway. The world seems so much safer when you’re on your own, and you don’t run the risk of looking petrified or saying the wrong thing.
But when you avoid people, you miss so many opportunities to have fun and learn from others. Your unique perspective can even be inspiring to somebody else. Networking gives you a chance to meet people similar to you, which can enrich your life in so many ways.
Of course, nothing changes overnight, so neither will your preference for solitude. However, if you stay persistent and dedicated, you can polish your social skills and become a more open person who actually enjoys the company of others. Here are some skills you might need to work on:
Even when people don’t know you, they most likely believe you. If you approach others thinking, “God, I’m bad with people, I’ll say something stupid and embarrass myself”, you’ll probably look exactly how you feel: like a deer in the headlights.
Don’t torture yourself with made-up scenarios. You are great just the way you are. Give others a chance to see that for themselves.
Playing to your strengths
Don’t push yourself to do what makes you uncomfortable. Instead, lean into what makes you feel good. Don’t like to talk much? Listen instead. Observe, memorize, analyze other people’s behavior. Learn from what you see, hear, and experience.
Asking for help
Whether it’s “Can you help me with something?” or “Can you introduce me to your friends?”, asking for help can feel awkward. But don’t be afraid. Asking for help will open you up, and people feel good about themselves when they help others, so it’s a win-win.
Letting go of control
Although you never know what might happen next in a social context, treat it as an adventure rather than a potential threat. Who cares if it doesn’t go perfectly? Learning to enjoy networking is a process, and your skills will get better in time.
Following your own tempo
It's crucial to stay realistic and not expect too much too soon. Respect your own pace and take it all one step at a time.
Don’t expect to become a party animal or build a professional network overnight. After all, your goal isn’t to change who you are, but to open yourself and let others get to know you for who you really are.