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The Shy Networker

Most extroverted folks are great at networking events. They’re all bubbly, chatty and such. They make us introverted folks cringe sometimes.

Me, an introvert?

Yup, ‘fraid so gang. I’ve always been a bit shy, even way back in the dark ages when I was but a mere kidlet. Yet, I don’t have any problem with public speaking – the task that rates higher than death on the “Stressful things to do” list. I’m also the guy who starts up the conversation when nobody else will at a club lunch. Go figure.

How did I deal with being a happy introvert in the business world? Easy. I married an extrovert who also was my business partner. She was (and is) probably one of the best sales people I’ve ever met. She can still fire up a comfy conversation with anyone.

Then, I got divorced. Ut oh …

I found myself sitting on the couch in my nifty new apartment one evening after a workday, thinking, “Gee … what do I do with myself now?” I needed to figure out how I was going to get out there and all chummy with new prospects.

Here’s what I did. Odds are, it will work for all you other card-carrying introverts out there, too.

I found the best extrovert I knew and did what he did. I acted “as if.” “As if” I was a chatty type and “as if” I was a public speaker. And guess what? It worked. And, it wasn’t too tough, either.

Simply acting as if you where a dynamic networking mogul can get you over the hump and learn the skills. When you’re in a situation, just think, “What would [insert extrovert du jour] do or say?” Picture your extrovert model person in your seat and just do and say as you believe they would. That might sound like a big lull in the conversation’s looming, but not really. Odds are you’ve seen your model in the same or similar situation and your brain will work pretty quick.

But what if you screw up and say or do something stupid? So what? It’s important to remember that everybody does or says something stupid at times. We’re all human. I usually try to say something funny and call attention to my idiotic faux pas. We all have a good laugh and move on with things. It’s important not to take ourselves too seriously at times.

Here’s a case in point. It wasn’t a major knee-slapper, but it’s stuck in my memory for about 30 years. A good bud of mine, and also a brilliant sales guy, was at the checkout counter at a drugstore with me. He pulled out his wallet and all his dough fell out onto the floor. Without so much as a pregnant pause, he said, “Oh geez, what a vulgar display of wealth.” Everybody around cracked up.

After a while it gets easier and soon you find yourself being comfortable in situations that used to terrify you. You might even find you look forward to them.

So, go forth, act “as if” and release the happy extrovert living inside of you.

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