I’m going to warn you, if you’re an introvert / shy person / wallflower, this post might make your face melt off. So for heaven’s sake, please be sure you are sitting down when you read this.
In my continual research into all things having to do with networking, business socialization, conversation, communication, collaboration, social graces, leadership, success, and business protocol I’ve seen a recurring theme that’s been very interesting. I have to share it because it runs counter to what most people practice.
Experts in the fields of psychology, communication, and business agree: when you’re out in public, whether it’s at a business meeting, a social event, or a networking “thing,” it’s your responsibility – indeed even your duty — to greet and introduce yourself to those around you. How you feel when you’re out and about in the world is utterly beside the point. What really matters, what says the most about you, and what is ultimately going to impact your future success and reputation — is how others feel in your presence.
Truth is, no one gives a rip if every personality profile you’ve ever taken reveals that you’re an introvert, are shy, struggle with communicating with others, or lack confidence. What’s more, if you think there aren’t other introverts out there struggling in social settings, think again.
And have I mentioned lately that I’m half introvert? Like you, I get anxious when I have to walk into a room full of strangers. But with hard work and practice, I’ve learned how move past my own fears and perceived insufficiencies. I put on my grownup hat, march into the setting, and find someone to whom I can say hello. And sometimes I even get up on stage and speak. For a living!
I know I can’t hide from the world nor do I want to anymore. Even more important, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone feel small, ignored, or insignificant.
Thing is, if you’ve gotten far enough in life where you have a job or career or you are running a business or offering a wonderful product or service, you should have by now mustered up the pluck to smile, say “Hello, good morning/afternoon/evening. I’m [state your name],” and extend your hand.
Flummoxed or in a twist about what to do after that? Begin (this minute) collecting good conversation-starting questions. Here are just a few:
- What brings you here?
- How do you know the host(s)/organizer(s)?
- Do you know very many people here? (If they do, ask if they wouldn’t mind introducing you to a few of them.)
- What do you do?
- Do you love it?
- What do you like most about it?
- What’s the biggest challenge for you?
Another thing to remember: as an introvert, you have a wonderful asset and that’s your ability to be a great listener! Who doesn’t like a great listener, right?
So, like learning how to brush your teeth, read, empty the dishwasher, drive a car, and operate a computer and smartphone, the skill of being social and gracious is a very grown up and necessary thing to do. Yes, it’s scary and it requires training, courage, determination, and practice. But it’s your duty. And you are worthy of the task.
That said, pardon my bluntness here, but it’s time for all you introverts and shy people to stop leaning on your social-aversions as an excuse to keep to yourselves, leave conversations hanging awkwardly, and potentially make others uncomfortable around you. Remember how awesome you really are, how many gifts you have to share with others, and gather up the gumption to introduce yourselves to the world. We will all be grateful!