Catch me two years ago, this story I’m about to tell, would NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. No way.
Last week I went to a conference to learning more about Blogging and Social Media.
But here’s my dirty little secret…I actually went there to meet people and network.
Though I’m now quite social in my “non-work life”, I realized that it was sucking big time to sit behind the computer and only connect with people over email and chat for most of the day.
So learning became secondary, and meeting people was really the primary agenda.
So the first day came, and I saw a guy that told me about the conference that I had a Skype video chat with a couple months back.
I hadn’t been out of the house in about a week, because I was catching up on all the work I had to get done, so I wouldn’t be swamped when I got back from my trip.
So I saw this guy, said hi, but I was a bit nervous. I was a bit overwhelmed by the over-stimulation of activity I was experiencing in the Mecca of New York City.
I noticed I was a bit shut down, and I couldn’t quite express myself how I wanted to. I didn’t like that I was shut down…but it was how I was, alas.
So I noticed I was beating myself up a bit and said I’d see him later, as a bunch of younger fellas were saying hi to him. I just wasn’t warmed up to be social…yet.
But who will prevail…me or the remnants of social anxiety?
How To “Indirectly” Meet People
So I headed to the first workshop session of the day and sat down. I started thinking “should I talk to someone?” I didn’t say anything to anyone, and the session began.
At the end, I noticed a few people talking here and there, but not really anyone. Then I realized “it’s that damn old social anxiety mind underneath, still there a bit!
Actually, no one is talking it’s the first session of the day and everyone’s tired! Give yourself a break, David!”
Even so, I was a little bit anxious and turned towards a fella that looked interesting in a yellow shirt, with a cool leather jacket on.
But before I could say anything he was gone. I started to walk out of the room…and then I stopped.
I said “I have to talk to someone this is ridiculous.” So I went up to a group of people that were chatting, and listened for a bit on the perimeter.
This is what I call an indirect way to meet people, slipping into the conversation as if you’re already a part of it, and making a situational comment or asking a question.
One key here is I made sure to make my presence known FIRST, and assumed social rapport.
This is something I haven’t talked about before, because without the strong internal foundation of mindfulness and values, it’s much harder to do, especially if you’ve been suffering from social anxiety for so long.
I also made sure to make strong eye contact with people in the group, especially anyone that was speaking. A couple times I feinted in speaking, opening my mouth, but nothing came out, as they continued speaking.
Eventually, I did what I call a “polite interruption” and just said something, and got right into the conversation.
Bam! I was off and running, talking about what I do as a social anxiety coach, and exchanging business cards left and right after that.
I win! Social anxiety remnants in my mind, you lose, big time.
On a quick side note, I recently had a conversation with a psychologist who said that he’s seen research that indicates we may not to be able to completely erase the old neural pathways that have been operating for so long.
They may still remain to a small degree, possibly because they give us a wider range of experience and learning.
No one is sure.
But the good thing is, that old neural pathways are weak and can’t dominate you like they once did, once you’ve crossed over to the other side of being confident and social and strengthened those pathways.
Indirect is certainly the “smoother” way, and I prefer it. But sometimes you just gotta be direct, and thank God that you can.
The Direct Start to Conversations
Right after that I left the session and saw the fella in the yellow shirt, standing looking like he was waiting for someone. The one I tried talking to before but…he left.
Something about this guy intrigued me, maybe because he was one of the few dudes with earrings there like me. Who knows.
NOW THIS IS SOMETHING I WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE BEFORE I DISSOLVED MY SOCIAL ANXIETY.
I walked right up to him, directly and said “Hey man, you look interesting, what brings you to BlogWorld?”
I was so goddamned direct, I almost forgot I was me. I still surprise myself when I do this kind of stuff.
Was I a bit nervous sure, but nothing like I used to be. Before there no-way-in-hell I’d be able to do that.
Nope, I was as shy and socially awkward in the past.
But I checked my values, why I was there, and just said what I needed to say to meet a new person.
Then about a minute later, a friend of his showed up and he introduced me to her. All of a sudden we had a little posse, and they invited me to lunch.
That’s how quickly you can meet people and start hanging out.
They both became friends of mine over the next few days. Not to mention the after parties and networking that happened over the next few days.
I met so many people, my head was spinning. It was a fantastic time.
In the past at an event like this, I would have gone for the learning first, then to people second.
Now it’s the other way around.
Amazing stuff happens when you flip your perspective like this.
The whole experience of networking was great, it was a true test of if what I teach works, and by God I’m glad to say, again, that it does.
Not only research proven, but experientially proven time and again.
Why do I say all this…is it just to toot my own horn?
HELL NO. It’s to show you what’s possible. If I can do it, you can do it as a formerly socially awkward and anxious guy.
A Simple Breakdown of Networking Skills
If I was to break it down simply, there are three things to focus on when networking to meet people at events like this.
1) Being open & friendly, whether directly or indirectly (lots of eye contact, and smiling is magic)
2) Getting curious about the other person
3) Sharing openly about yourself, to make it known who you are and what you do
(Always, have a business card ready. I made them for free (except the cost of the card paper) using Avery Cards I bought at OfficeMax.)
Now I know many of you might be thinking “but if I have social anxiety how can I do any of this?”
Well my friends, that’s what this entire site is about and what all the other posts and videos are for. :)
You have to understand a lot of internal work had to happen before reaching these levels, but really it’s not as hard as you think.
It’s just your social anxiety mindset and story getting in the way, blast it.
But you must do the work. I can lay it all out for you, but I can’t do it for you.
And YOU CAN DO IT. I know you can, whether it’s with my help, the help of a therapist, or someone else who actually knows what they’re doing when it comes to social anxiety (not all therapists do, believe me.)