One of the greatest inhibitors to success is shyness. My dictionary rather eloquently defines the word “shy” as “shrinking from notice or approach”. So, if you are shy you might prefer not to be noticed, and, more probably, you prefer not to approach people.
One of my mentors keeps emphasizing that success is not about what you know or who you know. It’s about who knows you. You can immediately see the disadvantage of being shy. If you don’t want to be noticed, and if you don’t approach people to let them know of your existence, very few people will know you. And if they don’t know you they won’t be able to do business with you.
To put is bluntly – to succeed you have to overcome shyness. Now, that might be easier to say than do, but as a person who naturally tends to keep to myself I have taken on a few strategies to help me overcome my hesitation to be noticed or make the first approach.
It is helpful to realise that shy people are not a rare breed. In fact, in any gathering the majority of people would prefer not to be centre stage and do feel awkward making conversation with someone they have never met. It’s not for nothing that having to address a group is counted among the top stress inducing experiences. Being noticed and making an approach does not come naturally to most people. The people who seem to work the room with such flair at functions were not born with the ability to see and be seen – they learnt it. So, if you regard yourself as shy, realise that you are just the same as most other people. People who don’t shrink from being noticed or making approaches are like you, except they have learnt how to overcome their disadvantage – and so can you.
Remember, you genuinely do have a contribution to make and your opinions are as valuable as anybody else’s. One of the main reasons for not wanting to approach a stranger at a function is the fear of rejection. And we only fear rejection if we believe we have nothing to offer and are therefore “rejectable”. We also fear rejection if we believe that other people are basically horrible and out to hurt us, embarrass us or judge us. The truth is that the vast majority of people are very pleasant, have no desire to harm you and are genuinely interested in who you are. And if you do come across that rare individual who returns your greeting with an icy stare, follow the advice of author Susan Roane – “eject the ‘rejector’ and move on. There are other nice people in the room who would be open to meeting you.”
If you aren’t sure what to say when meeting someone, start with the most obvious. Tell the person who you are, perhaps tell them what you do, or why you are attending the function, or comment on the venue, ask them what they do and show an interest in them. You will be amazed how friendly people are when they sense you are genuinely interested in them. Of course, in your shy state, you don’t seem to show interest in people and, guess what, they come across as unfriendly – which only entrenches your shyness.
Occasionally our tongues seem out of step with our brain. One of my greatest gaffes was to introduce my wife to a colleague using my sister’s name! If you are worried about that happening, there is nothing wrong with a bit of rehearsal. Before you attend a function, rehearse your introduction. It may sound false, but you will find that if you can get the opening lines out smoothly and eloquently, the rest of the conversation will flow.
It helps if you keep up with current affairs – so read your “Daily News” every day. You are bound to find something of interest to raise in a conversation.
Those people who work the room well have simply learned a few skills. And they learned the skills and put them into practice because they know they are vital for success. You can do the same – you have the same abilities that they have, just use them.