This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.
Creative people are often shy, introverted loners.
And that’s why sometimes its hard for us to master one of the most important skills every creator needs to have in their arsenal: the ability to network.
Personally, I’m naturally a shy, introverted, loner. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of people in theory, but their actual physical presence can drive me bonkers.
However, despite these issues, I’ve learned to adapt because I know networking is going to play a vital role in me achieving my dream.
So, today, I’d like to share with you how I went from naturally shy to more social (or at least someone who pretends to be social) in six easy steps:
The Shy Writer’s Guide To Networking
1. Prepare Yourself To Be Someone You’re Not
It’s okay to honor who you are as a shy introvert, and recognize the power and grace of that more subdued nature, but it’s also okay to admit that you have to put on the “mask” of an extrovert from time to time so that you can engage with people in a way you normally wouldn’t (with the intention of advancing your career).
Before you go out to any networking event then, one of the first things I recommend you do is to prepare yourself to enter the world as someone else: become aware that you are about to put on a mask that you know is not the real you, but that you are going to take off as soon as the night is over.
This should relieve some of the anxiety because you know that your time as a social butterfly is only temporary.
(Don’t worry Cinderella: you’re only a princess until midnight. After that, you get to go back to the simple peasant life.)
2. Rehearse What You’re Going To Say Before You Step Out
“What am I going to say to all these strangers? And what are they going to say? And what if they point out this or that about me—how am I going to respond to that? I might say something stupid and then they’ll laugh at me or make me feel stupid–how am I going to cope with that?”
If you have all these concerns when it comes to social situations, don’t worry: you’re not alone. I have all those questions running through my head, too. But I’ve learned that in order to make myself less nervous as a shy person, I have to come prepared with something to say before I go out and meet a bunch of strangers.
Sometimes I purposely think of a story that happened to me earlier that day so that I can share it as an ice breaker during conversation. Or I might consider sharing something fascinating I heard about on the news.
I know: it sounds exhausting having to prepare what you are going to say before you go out and say, but trust me: it is actually easier than it sounds.
A good approach is to go over all the topics you are most insecure about and prepare a response to all of them in case someone asks you about them. That way you don’t have to worry about what “they” are going to say to you because even if “they” say it to you, you already know how you’re going to respond.
3. Enter The Room Thinking About How You Can Help These People (As Opposed to How They Can Help You.)
People who are poor networkers are usually the ones running around desperately asking people to help them with their careers, disregarding the fact that many of the people they are talking to may not actually be able to help them in their careers—much less have any interest in helping them in general.
The one’s who are REALLY good at networking are the people who everyone seems to already know and who everyone is running up to hug and say “thank you” to. That’s because the people who are really good at networking are the people looking to help other people achieve their goals, not their own. This networking approach not only endears them to everyone else, but it also makes them somebody that everyone in the room wants to be in a long-term, meaningful relationship with.
Now, I am not recommending that when you network you go out with the intention of helping others JUST so that you can get a favor back in return, no. I’m not saying that. (That approach actually doesn’t work and makes people distrust you because they will suspect that every effort to help them is really just a veiled effort at helping yourself.) No: what I am saying is that you should give to others without the expectation of receiving anything in return.
Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, a book on networking, says that one should never try to “keep score” when helping others. Ferrazzi believes that helping others without keeping score is one of the most effective ways to build long-term relationships that are also beneficial to your career. One day you may, in fact, reap the reward from the relationship but it wasn’t because you were trying desperately to get a favor from that person, but because you truly deserved that reward after so many years of being a kind and generous person to them.
4. Find Your “Dream Buddies”
Try to connect with the folks who hold a dream that is similar to yours–and who are actively trying to pursue it.
These people may potentially become what I will call your “Dream Buddies,” or people who can give you moral support in achieving your dreams, but also may even be crucial to helping you achieve those dreams—you, in turn, may be crucial to providing them support and helping them manifest their dream as well.
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, called it having a “Master Mind” group. Hill often said that having a “Master Mind” group was crucial to the success of anyone who wanted to manifest their dream. (He once interviewed dozens of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen in the country and discovered that every single one of them was a member of a “Master Mind” group.)
When you’re networking, make sure that you spend most of your time talking with people who you would strongly consider being one of your Dream Buddies. Finding and connecting with this group of “Dream Buddies” is actually the whole reason why you’re networking in the first place, so make sure you focus on finding that special group.
5. Leave The Room When You Need To
Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of Emotional Freedom, recommends that people who find social situations energetically exhausting should allow themselves the ability to leave the social situation whenever they feel too overwhelmed.
If you don’t want to leave the social situation, but still want to take break from it, Orloff recommends allowing yourself a few minutes to go to the bathroom, or another private place, to regain your sense of serenity.
6. Come Back Home To Yourself Afterwards
After any social situation, every shy introvert needs some time to take off that social mask they’ve been wearing all day.
After a busy night of networking, give yourself permission to sit in quiet mediation for 15 minutes; take a nice hot bath; or maybe even burn some incense or sage to help clear out all the craziness of the night.
This should help you get back to your center.
Always take a moment to check back in with that quiet, shy part of you (the person you really are) so that you don’t forget to honor your true nature–even if, just for a moment, you pretended you were something you weren’t just so you could advance your dreams a bit.
much social love,
Today’s Courage Exercise
Be social. Go network. Find Your Dream Buddies.
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