Shy People And Parties Survival Guide

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.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Un-Networking For Shy People

Un-Networking

Un-Networking is brilliant for shy people. It is the art of being genuinely interested in meeting new people with no expectations of selling them something.

I developed an early horror of cheese and chardonnay networking events, filled with drunken blokes with no home to go to, but a hellava lot of business cards to press sweatily into any willing palm.

Needless to say, I missed opportunities to expand and avoided “After Hours Networking” for years, until I created the concept of “un-networking”.

Step 1: Identify possible valuable benefits to attending the After Hours Event.
Yes, Possible Benefits:                                                                                
•    I need new clients and new ideas.
•    I could learn something from the speaker.
•    The cheese chunks are more nutritious than anything I’ve got at home.  

No Perceivable Benefits:
•    So don’t go.

Step 2: If “YES, Possible Benefits”
Proceed with an open heart to the After Hours Event. Be aware of the Possible Benefit to you and then let go of the expectation that you will receive it. Yes, I know, that’s the tricky bit. But if it were easy, we’d all be sitting on top of a fluffy cloud with lots of dark chocolate.

Step 3: How To Let Go Of Expectations Script
(Say to yourself) “… My purpose in attending this event is because I need…(fill in the Benefit you are after.) However, the outcome, whatever it may be, is beyond my control. So I’m just going to show up, be myself and see what happens. And I can choose to leave whenever I want.”

Step 4: How To Be Yourself
Trickier than it sounds for our self-conscious, time-poor western society. This is an affliction affecting up to 50% of the population. Read the related article: “The Shy Person’s Guide To Party Survival”.

Step 5: Your Arrival
Take a deep breath, ground yourself and look around. Where is there movement and energy? Where are the awkward places? And most importantly, where is the food? Walk determinedly in your chosen direction. Frequently the best place for meaningful connection with new people is in the kitchen or by the carrot sticks.

Step 6: The Business Card Swapping Ceremony – Do’s & Don’ts
Do try either of these:
1.    Upon initial introduction, immediately offer your card. Politely ask if you may receive one of theirs in return. The beauty of this ceremony is that it immediately generates conversation – “Oh that‘s an interesting business logo, what’s the story behind it?” and so on. It also means you won’t forget peoples’ names thirty seconds after they’ve just told you.

2.    If after chatting for a while, you decide that this is a person you’d like to get to know, as a buyer, seller or friend, either offer one of your cards or ask if you can have one of their cards. Generally, if you accept someone’s card, I believe it is good manners to offer one of your own. This creates a balance of mutual giving and receiving.

Do not try either of these:
1.    Simply “plonk” your card in front of people to whom you are not currently conversing and then buzz off, distributing them like poison pollen.

2.    Accept a card and immediately stuff it in your bag without looking at it. The Japanese believe the card personally represents you and as such, should be treated with the appearance of respect. Many of us feel the same way.

Step 7: Make New Friends, Connections And Business:
After all that effort to attend the After Hours Event, cocktail party, business breakfast or general smoozing, you might as well take it all the way. Write where and when you met the person on their card. If you enjoyed talking and made an offer, such as sending them some information, then phone or email them within 24 hours or so.

Frequently, your thoughtful and genuine follow up email or phone call makes Un-Networking very worthwhile. You just never know what interesting opportunities, ideas and people are out there.

But if you never go, you’ll never know.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au