I can make small talk with anyone. But it wasn’t always that way. If the stakes feel high and if I am taking a bigger risk than usual I experience a keyed up feeling. Just wanted to go on record with that. Instead of feeding the panicky feelings I have some techniques in my back pocket to reduce clammy palms and a pounding heart. If you can relate to this and your business depends on getting out there— I want to share some personal information so you can experience transformation. Change is possible.
My self –consciousness and business shyness was fueled by a negative imagination. Taming it was a process and I scared myself to find the motivation I needed to change and grow. Shyness equaled homelessness in my mind; I’d never get a job and never get what I really wanted until I could get the hang of reaching out. Staying in my head and on the sidelines guaranteed failure and I wanted success more than failure.
20+ years ago I enrolled my extroverted friend, Andrea to role-play with me. She was fearless, hungry, and loved any challenge. She sold radio ad time in NYC, one of the most competitive markets and insisted I fake confidence in order to get some. That was her pearl. The first 3 letters in the word confidence are CON. She told me to con myself.
In her tiny apartment we’d rehearse for job interviews, pretend to be selling things, and practice turning around objections and rejection. I grew more certain and powerful with each practice session. After I graduated Andrea’s boot camp I moved on to Toastmasters, improvisation class and dance lessons to practice initiating and yielding. Looking foolish mattered less and going beyond my comfort zone was the more important goal. The freedom and spontaneity is the result of the effort I put into it. No one can take you’re your confidence ( without your permission) and it pays dividends.
This is the most all about me post that I’ve done to date. And the inspiration came when I dined with a CFO friend who said fear of selling and not knowing how to do it is the single biggest factor for business failure after a company gets funded. Please know that you don’t need to be an extrovert to sell— you must make a decision not to hold yourself back anymore. Showboats are out of fashion and sincerity goes far. I want you to end the struggle, quit trying to fix yourself— just be yourself.
Six easy ways to overcome shyness
1) Use a prop. It’s nice to have a conversation starter to lean on. Wear an unusual pendant or carry an interesting book. This makes it easy for others to engage you. People are looking for ways in to start a conversation.
2) Plan in advance. Before you go, decide what you are going to say. You don’t need to memorize a story like you would for a play or speech but you need to have some short stories about yourself and your product/ service in your hip pocket. (No more than 5 sentences please.)
3) Start conversations. Choose low stakes environments like the line at a coffee shop to make small talk. If you are stuck and need inspiration you can contact me with your email and I’ll send you 10 good opening lines.
4) Use your body. Physical actions reduce nervous energy. You can hum under your breath, which has a calming effect—I do it all the time. You can go in the bathroom and shake your hands around; it dispels anxiety.
5) Get out of your head. Practice making others comfortable. Imagine them being nervous and put them at ease. Introverts and shy people focus on their own worries. So become interested in the other person and give it a minute or two until you both settle in and relax.
6) Show some teeth. Smiling sets the tone. If you appear friendly and engaged others will notice and soften too. It works for dogs— tail wagging makes them mostly irresistible.
Practice, practice, practice and you will become proud and worthy of your own admiration.