Cheese Is A Terrific Starting Point
Many people find it difficult to “just be themselves”, especially shy people at parties. Remember that feeling when you first walk through the door, confronted by a sea of unknown faces or backs? Should you stick around or should you run? Parties can bring up fear of being separate or rejected by the group. Similar fears surface when public speaking.
Basically, when self consciousness looms, people shrink with fear and disappear, or pump themselves up with a flashy veneer.
At parties, it’s frequently a case of one human shield meeting another human shield – no wonder it’s difficult to connect meaningfully with the room awash with air kisses.
Trust & Rapport
Recently I attended a women’s’ “drinks & nibbles”. (Yes, the dreaded “After Hours Networking” – see the related article “Un-Networking For Shy People”.)
The guest speaker was a funeral director and she explained the process of building trust and rapport with someone you’ve never met before. Her process can also be applied to creating heart to heart connections at a party.
Level 1: Surface chitchat about the party…Head nodding acknowledgement.
Level 2: Basic information exchange…Name, connection to host.
Level 3: Offering of safe opinions… Scanning for similarities. Longer eye contact.
Level 4: Exchange of appropriate personal thoughts…Standing closer, feeling safer.
Level 5: Opening up & sharing honest feelings…Authentic Connection.
If your party experience traditionally stays between Levels 1 and 3, then you miss the opportunity to “show yourself” and so does the other person. Self consciousness keeps you in its’ grip and it’s purpose is to keep you feeling safe. Whether you need it or not.
And hey hey hey! If you get to Level 5, you can consider yourself someone who just got comfortable with being themselves at a party, or at least, with one new person. Shy people and parties, who would have thought?
Dropping The Mask
Most of us hide behind a façade at some point. We do this because we don’t feel safe enough to be ourselves. We fear judgement, rejection or loss. Parties and public speaking can trigger a lot of fear! Here’s a quote from a client of mine who sums it up:
“ I can see now that speakers who rely on putting up a mask, rob their audience of the authentic experience of being with them. “ Elise Wynyard, Art Therapist
And so it is at parties. When you wear a mask, you rob people meeting the real you. I am not recommending you drop your guard and expose yourself to the whole wide world this afternoon.
I am recommending you try this technique next time you feel uncomfortable at a party, or when public speaking:
• Take a slow, deep breath and feel your feet on the floor.
• Take all the time you need to slow down, make soft eye contact.
• If you feel like it, introduce yourself to someone who willingly offers eye contact.
• Pause, smile, and allow space for words to arise naturally. And they will.
• If someone appears impatient and moves on because you didn’t enthral them within thirty seconds, let them go; you were never going to feel safe enough to open up and connect with this person anyway.
After The Party, Ask Yourself:
• Is it more satisfying to have connected authentically with one real person, or
• Is it more satisfying to have ten superficial conversations about the cheese?
It is not my intention to deride conversations about cheese. Cheese is a terrific starting point. The key is to find that starting point, a place of connection with another person. One real person, meets another real person and hey presto, you can be yourself, even as one of the shy people at parties.