Recently, I came across an article for people struggling with shyness on how to network. I was excited! I thought, “Wow! An article I can include in my newsletter for anyone reading it that wants to learn how to network in spite of their shyness.”
After reading the article, I was sorely disappointed. It was just another spin on working a room written by an extreme extrovert telling shy folks how to be a round peg in a square hole. That’s when I knew I had to write this article and set the record straight.
What qualifies me? I suffered with shyness for more than thirty years and am right smack in the middle of being an introvert and extrovert on the Myers-Briggs Indicator. I intimately understand the challenges of shyness and of introversion.
The biggest problem I have with the concept of “working a room” is that it denotes “work.” I’ve said it before — I don’t know about you, but why would I want to work at meeting people. Isn’t it possible that instead, I learn how to simply enjoy a roomful of people? Wouldn’t that offer me greater benefits and opportunities that could lead to a variety of positive outcomes?
Learning how to enjoy a room means to be able to walk into a roomful of people and acknowledge that they are just that — a roomful of people. It means seeing that everyone in the room is like you, a human being that isn’t perfect. Isn’t it possible that if we shifted our perception and stopped concerning ourselves with how others think of us, we’d develop a new understanding — a new perspective that would make us actually feel at ease and relaxed? Everyone can benefit from relaxing and accepting each other as imperfect human beings. We need one another to survive; we need each other to grow. Why even the extrovert can learn how to relax more, can learn from their introverted peers how to draw on an internal energy source.
The question still comes to “”how.” How can I learn to enjoy a room instead of work a room?
The first step is to know that walking into a roomful of people doesn’t mean walking into a roomful of strangers. How is that? That is because we all can recognize at least a few of the people that might show up. No, we might not know their names or their identities. We might not have heard about their stellar reputation, their career foibles, their successes and failures. However, I guarantee you know these people. Let’s take a closer look:
Here are our fellow human beings that more than likely show up as a roomful of people.
Networking: A Roomful of People We All Know
Shy people are considered to be reserved or ill at ease with other people. In a roomful of people they don’t know, they’re more likely to
- find one person to cling to, or
- remain obscure in some way.
They usually suffer the greatest internal anxiety compared to others in the room.
Introverted folks are concerned about their energy levels. They know that being in a roomful of people will tax their energies and they will need to exert more. It’s not that they don’t enjoy people — they do. It’s not that they’re necessarily shy, most aren’t. It has to do with their need for quiet introspection and every time they spend talking with someone, they know they’re depleting their energetic resources.
Extroverts draw their energies from others. They’re natural interests and attentions are directed to the world outside of the self. When they’re in a roomful of people, they’re looking for the opportunities to talk and exchange energies. They want to “fill up” their energetic resources. Typically, their energy spills over as enthusiasm and excitement in meeting others.
Pessimists just expect a negative outcome, period. Before they’ve even arrived, they’ve made up their minds that
- it’s a waste of time,
- they’re not going to meet anyone,
- that the gathering of strangers is stupid,
- the cost will be too high, the food not good enough — you get the gist.
Pollyanas naively believe everything is wonderful. They generally want everyone to like them so are busy seeking out people in the room that will give them approval. They’re usually overly optimistic and often giggly when talking with others in the room’; it’s a nervous laughter.
Type As are characterized by impatience, aggression, and tenseness. You usually feel tense in their presence or like they’re not really present with you. They’re usually
- in people’s face,
- moving from target to target,
- they’re working the crowd.
Overbearing folks are arrogantly dominating and usually dictatorial. They might be the ones telling everyone what to do and how to do it. Insisting everyone listen to them and follow their lead regardless of the outcome.
Grouchy people don’t even want you to talk to them. They tend to be irritable and complaining; bad-tempered. They make you wonder why they’ve even showed up to an event where there’s a roomful of people. Until you realize that they’re enjoying being nasty to others.
Narcissists can be the most deceitful of all the people in the room. Typically, they are egotistic and ruthless in pursuit of their own gratification, dominance and ambition. On the outside, they can appear to really be enjoying people in a room; they’re the kind that give “schmooze” a bad rap. They’ll act like they’re hanging on your every word — only, later they quickly forget you even exist if they didn’t see how you could benefit them.
Now that we understand our roomful of people, how can we enjoy them more and work them less so we build real opportunities and networks that feel natural, organic and respectful? I think that it’s important to understand that all of us suffer fear in social situations at some point in our lives. Fear is most common in social situations involving exposure to unfamiliar people and/or the possibility of being scrutinized and evaluated. Take a look at these statistics where people face fear in social situations:
Situation: Percentage with Fear
- formal speaking 95%
- informal speaking/meetings 80%
- parties 80%
- maintaining conversation 65%
- initiating conversation 60%
- eating/drinking in public 35%
- writing in public 25%
- public restrooms 10%
When fearful, we tend to experience anxiety, blushing, sweating, a rapid heart rate, shaking, shortness of breath and trembling. I’m sure you can quickly recall your own experiences when you’ve been faced with a roomful of people. It comes down to this: enjoying a roomful of people is an attitude where all of us stand on common ground. You see, the only way one person gets elevated above or below another is through our perceptions. When you look at the folks that I’ve listed above, can’t you see that they all share one thing in common? They are human beings with faults, quirks, mental attitudes that absorb them, etc. And, they are human beings with strengths, knowledge, insight, stories, etc. We’re all in this together; not as strangers. Instead, we are a part of a larger network of human beings. 100 people in a room that don’t know one another by name, career or status is simply a room of 100 people that suffer from one sort of disorder or another. The next time you walk into a roomful of people, what do you think would be different if you walked into the room recognizing that every person room counts, including you?
You want to enjoy a room? Then get really clear and accept the fact that human beings need one another regardless of our social status and conditionings. We can all overcome our social conditions, phobias, fears and anxieties in meeting one another when we embrace deep inside that our survival and growth as a human race depends on our willingness to connect with each other.
No one needs to be a round peg trying to fit into a square hole of “working a room.” It is more than OKAY to be YOURSELF and find your own style of networking and meeting others. There are so many creative ways to meet others and enjoy the process.
Recommended Articles on Networking:
- How to Use Networking for Your Business
- Networking as Your Sole Marketing Vehicle
- Networking Tips: How to Introduce Yourself
- Top 10 Turn-Offs About Networking
Recommended Books on Networking:
- Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
- Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-how for Business And Career Success
- Networking for Introverts: How to Make Connections that Count Without Being Sleazy
- Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections
- The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies
About the Author:
Category: Networking and Word of Mouth