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Effective Networking & How To Overcome Shyness

By Tess Taylor

Most people want to network more effectively and overcome the shyness and fear which hold them back. This is essential to widening your circle of friends and associates, thereby increasing opportunities available to you, to say nothing of the dramatically increased fun-and-adventure factor.

One key to effective networking (and to human relations in general) is to think about the needs and interests of the other person instead of putting yours first. It’s a sign of maturity to stop thinking so much of yourself as the center of the universe (which is normal when we are young) and to see and empathize with people around us. Of course, we all want things: stability, a good job, recognition by our peers, a bit of cash, a home, family, good health, opportunity. This, too, is normal. Notice however that when you demonstrate a sincere interest in other people, this in itself acts as a bond. We are naturally interested in people who are interested in us!

Along these lines, you’ll find a concept in negotiation called “getting on the same side of the table” which is also useful in basic human relations to create meaningful bonds. It means looking at the problem or situation from the “same side of the table” as if you were the other person, to understand his position and point of view, even if you may not agree with it. This simple technique – the mere acknowledgment that you UNDERSTAND (again, even if you don’t agree) makes a world of difference.

Also, it helps to take an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity because there is enough for all of us here. When you understand and believe this, it will relieve you of much anxiety (besides, it’s true). If one person gets an opportunity, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is now one less opportunity for you.

A few other things help, for example:

• Smile. Did you know that for many people, when their faces are at rest (expressionless) they may look like they are frowning or even unhappy? Avoid this, keep a warm smile on your face, flash it often and liberally. Smiling broadcasts that you are friendly, welcoming and approachable. And more people will approach you. That naturally translates into more opportunity, more friends, more fun!

• Develop charisma and an awesome handshake. One of my favorite books, Secrets of Power Persuasion by Roger Dawson, devotes an entire (and very excellent) chapter on the subject of charisma and how to develop it. Contrary to what many believe, it IS possible to develop charisma even if you feel that you have none. Charisma is the practice of including everyone, making every person you meet feel like the most important person in your life at the moment (which they should be!). A strong, firm handshake helps, as does making eye contact, smiling and remembering names.

• Remember names… and use them! Our own name is one of the most beautiful sounds to our ears, so it is wise to note other people’s names and use them often. The key to remembering names is to WANT to remember them, and when you begin to experience the drastic change in attitude toward you and genuine appreciation when you DO remember names, you will be even more motivated to do so. It’s not difficult, Roger Dawson in his Secrets of Power Persuasion gives some mental exercises to help with this. What helps me most is to make sure I’ve heard the person’s name clearly, then make him spell it if I don’t understand it, and then I repeat it a few times. And if I meet a guy named Robert, I’ll think of another Robert I know and make a visual link, then I will use Robert’s name several times before moving on and… if I forget it, I will not be shy to ask him for it again immediately. Once someone has made an impression on me and I follow these simple steps, I remember many more names than before. It has made a big difference for me. In fact, people are frequently shocked at my ability to remember names. Even so, I could still improve and I work hard at this. It has such a positive effect on human relations that it’s worth making an effort.

• Understand that most other people are as shy and fearful as you may be… therefore, as far as I can tell, we are all equal in this way. I was stupendously shy growing up, a bit of a wallflower in grade school up until high school when I got to live in Vienna for a year. What helped me to overcome my shyness was the glaring realization that I would always be a passenger in life if I didn’t stand up for myself. It also occurred to me that most other people were painfully shy, too, and if that was the case, we were all the same… and if they were all so painfully shy as I was then, what did I have to worry about? This was mind over matter, and it worked! Think through your fears and ask yourself why you are so afraid, pursue these mostly irrational fears to the end and then squash them like bugs! And try this simple mental exercise: project yourself forward into the future a few years and try to look back at the current situation in front of you now that makes you afraid, and ask yourself this: “If I don’t do this NOW, will I regret it later? How will I feel in a few years if I don’t do this?”

This simple exercise is usually enough to convince me to do what I want to do, even if I am afraid.

Keep in mind that fear or discomfort are normal, and are excellent indicators that you are entering a growth period. You are afraid and uncomfortable precisely because you don’t know what lies ahead, that’s new territory for you. And to grow as a human, entrepreneur or artist, you need to press on into new territory. Staying in the same place (without good reason) is death as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get stuck! Your Success Zone is equal to your Comfort Zone, and the more you can press beyond the boundaries of your Comfort Zone, the better.

You have every right to be in and of this world, take abuse from no one and if you get ignored or insulted, move on. You do not need validation from anyone to have a spot on this planet, and another person’s validation shouldn’t make or break you, or your will to succeed. You are worthy in and of yourself. Validation is nice to have when you can get it, but your self-worth should not be dependent on someone else’s acceptance (or rejection).

• You are no better or no worse than anyone else. So don’t be arrogant, and don’t take abuse and bad behavior from anyone (and don’t distribute it!).

• One of the most important things you can do for yourself in life is to surround yourself with winners… and to fire your loser, flaky, tire-kicking, whiner friends, the addicts, depressives, downers and duds. Life is challenging enough without inviting (or allowing) dead weight on your train. Push them off! And once you’ve cleared the decks, look around, identify and bring into your orbit and (if possible) inner circle the winners. These are people with a positive upbeat attitude who will encourage and motivate you, who can relate to you and your dreams, and who will provide positive reinforcement and (when needed) constructive criticism. It is highly useful to gravitate toward people who are BETTER than you in every way so you can learn from them and assimilate upward. This has been an important strategy for me in my personal and professional life. I look for successful people and study them. Being around good, positive, successful, happy people is a brilliant move in the right direction. Modeling success is an excellent strategy.

• Think about what you can do for the other guy, something personal, meaningful, useful. Seek to be useful in all things. See opening paragraph of this section above. This is the essence of Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People. This book had a huge positive effect on me and it’s easy to see what it’s been on bestseller lists for literally decades. Get yourself a copy today.

Here is a short list of things you can do TODAY to increase your circle of friends and acquaintances, not to mention the quality of your life. Take the initiative, don’t wait for others to come to you – go out and meet them!