By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD
Does the idea of mingling at a party send cold fingers of dread creeping up your spine? Or the thought of giving a presentation in front of a room full of people make you feel physically sick? If so, then you’re not alone.
People laugh when I tell them I was that shy person growing up.
My mother always said people who knew me when I was young would be astounded that I am in sales. I could barely speak to people until I was a Junior in High School. I was that kid who worked in the library because I took my solace in books. The thought of speaking to more than one person, or a group made my hands sweat and it was almost an out of body experience for me.
Over time, I was able to overcome my shyness… because I had to. I had a mentor who pushed me to open my own graphic design company at 24 and I was forced to call on clients and look for new business. When you’re faced with starvation or talking to people, you will choose survival every time. And later, when I was in print sales, it was the same thing – sell or be fired.
When I used to attend events in person (looking forward to when we can all do that together again), I always look for the shy person in the room. They are the one standing in the corner, looking stricken or fidgeting with their phone. Boy, do I know that feeling. It brings back a lot of memories.
I always walk over to that person and introduce myself because I know how they feel.
Talking to a shy person at an event can be difficult.
Approach them with a smile and ask them a question about themselves to break the ice and get the conversation flowing. You may have to carry on the conversation in the beginning until they feel more comfortable. Choose topics you know they can contribute to – this ensures that they have something to talk about. Ask where they are from. What company do they work for? What do they like to do outside of work? Why did they come to the event in the first place?
Shy folks tend to dislike small talk, so ask them questions that will help you get to know them better. Use their name throughout the conversation to establish comfort and closeness. And, MOST OF ALL, do not comment about how shy or quiet they are.
The result? Wonderful friendships and business relationships.
I can’t begin to talk about all the wonderful friendships and business acquaintances that I’ve made in Kansas City by approaching shy people at meetings and events.
One young man, who I reached out to and introduced to others at a breakfast, ended up being one of the editors for the newspaper. He ended up writing many stories about us. Another is a current client, who was hiding in the kitchen during an event.
I was chatting with my daughter last night about Tulsa Remote, an organization that she has been accepted into. She told me there was a man from San Francisco, who works in the Artificial Intelligence industry, and he was literally shaking in the corner at the inaugural event. She went over and introduced herself and then brought him into the group. By the end of the night, a new friendship had begun.
There are some simple life lessons in this story:
There’s always someone struggling at an event or meeting… please include them.
Be kind. And teach your children to be kind.
Reach out… because everyone needs a little help once in a while, especially now.