Shyness, Networking, Careers

scan00132.jpg         I have had many requests to talk about shyness and work.  I found this excellent post which covers many areas of this.  There are many useful ideas and options you can explore. Even if you are shy you have to get out there.  You are competing with assertive, aggressive people.  You need to make yourself shine.    

******************************************                                                       Some Winning Strategies for Reluctant Marketers by Harvey Mackay   

 Fred was one of my schoolmates from fourth grade all through college. He was a loner, a total introvert and painfully shy, with all the baggage that comes with it: the dead-fish handshake, the downcast eyes that never quite meet yours, the halting, barely audible stabs at conversation.

Still, Fred was sincere, honest, hardworking — a thoroughly decent person.

I’m sure Fred went through high school without ever having a date. I can remember how, on graduation day, many of us trolled the halls to corral our classmates into signing our yearbooks. We competed with each other to see who could fill the most pages with reminiscences and tributes from our friends.

But not Fred. Once again, too timid, too shy. It would be a force job for Fred to go up to a classmate and request this easy favor.

Fast forward to college.

Somehow, Fred managed to get into a fraternity. Maybe it was because he never had a bad word to say about anyone. Maybe he was a “legacy.” Maybe it was because Fred decided it was something he wanted badly enough to come out of his cocoon and really go for.

What was it that changed him? Only The Shadow knows.

Whatever it was, whatever it took, a new Fred began to emerge. By our last year in college, he was unrecognizable from the Fred of our high-school years. He’d become popular and gregarious. Fred’s “lost years” in high school hadn’t been entirely wasted. He seemed to know more about swing music and jazz than anyone else on campus, probably from listening to it alone in his room. He’d also developed a flair for dancing, a considerable social advantage.

After college, Fred and several of his fraternity brothers formed a partnership in the automotive business. They became very successful. Most of us know people like Fred. Some of them never manage to shake off their early problems. Others do.

For some people, networking is as natural and instinctive as breathing. They’re self-confident, radiate optimism, make friends easily and seem to glide through life on winged feet. Not many of them will be readers of this article. Why should they be? They do this stuff without even having to think about it. They network with their alarm clocks when they wake up in the morning.

This article is addressed to the rest of us, the high-school Freds of the world, those not quite so sure of ourselves, perhaps a bit shy, even timid. We’re not out there bowling over everyone we meet with our dazzling smiles or brilliant conversation. We’re not even out there bowling.

Like Learning to Swim

For most people, networking is a learned behavior, like learning to swim. It’s a gradual and often painful — even scary — process of trial and error, small incremental steps and, finally, a few breakthroughs.

Fortunately, there are several tried-and-true techniques for overcoming this fear of trying:

1. Practice “let’s pretend.”

Why do we procrastinate? Why are we shy? We fear failure, and we define failure as falling short of perfection. Since perfection is impossible to achieve, we’re conflicted and act tentatively or not at all.

Plato said each thing or idea has a perfect form. While we can never achieve the ideal form, we should attempt to come as close as we can by observing and emulating the characteristics of the ideal.

Let’s segue from the ancient Greeks to you, the modern angst-ridden networker. Suppose there’s someone you want to meet. You’ve done your homework, you’re aware of an affinity or shared experience with this person, but you’re afraid to make the first move.

Why not play a game with yourself? The name of the game is “Let’s Pretend.”

Ask yourself, “What would the ideal networker do in this situation?” Then pretend you’re that person and do it. If you’re able, you can reinvent yourself. By pretending you are what you’re not, you actually can become what you’ve pretended to be.

2. Adopt a role model.

What’s the difference between this suggestion and the Plato gambit? Your ideal is real, not imagined. You aren’t asking what the perfect person would do. You’ve attached yourself to a successful networker and you’re committed to studying his or her techniques.

In the best of all possible worlds, your role models also can become your mentors, helping you, advising you, guiding you, even lending you their networks as you build your own.

For the shy or anxious person, this method has two advantages:

  • It takes only one good connection to start you on your way.
  • Your natural shyness and inexperience can help rather than hinder you.

As you gain confidence and skills, your role model will take pride in your progress and be motivated to do even more for you.

3. Take lessons.

You’re taking one now, as you read this article, so you’re already a believer in the learning process. There are other, real-life educational opportunities that are effective for overcoming shyness and inexperience.

The first real networking school I signed up for after I got out of college was Toastmasters. It proved so valuable to me that here I am, many years later, being paid handsomely as a public speaker, even though my main thrust is still running my business.

Toastmasters isn’t just about making speeches. It’s about doing your homework, gaining self-confidence, presenting a good appearance and becoming an interesting person and a valuable resource to others. In other words, Toastmasters can help you gain and polish the tools to become a successful networker.

The Dale Carnegie schools are designed to help students achieve similar goals. I’m a graduate, and I can tell you from my own experience that they’re masters at instilling personal confidence, polish, poise, communication and networking skills in their students. They’ve been around a long time, an excellent indication that they’re getting results.

And if you hope one day to be a professional public speaker, or if you just want to sound like one, there’s no better organization to join than the National Speakers Association (NSA), headquartered in Tempe, Ariz. I’m a member and collectively we speak to 20 million people a year. If you’re looking to hire a speaker for an event, this is the group to call. In fact, I believe this organization is so worthwhile that I’m willing to make you a promise. If you don’t feel you got your money’s worth the first year, send me a copy of your canceled check and I’ll give you a “Harvey Mackay Scholarship” — the second year’s membership will be on me. NSA can be reached at for information about national membership and local chapters.

4. Keep taking lessons.

Graduation isn’t the end of your education. It’s the foundation, the launching pad, the beginning. Unless you keep your batteries charged, they’ll run down. For an ongoing source of inspiration and motivation, I recommend subscribing to Norman Vincent Peale’s publication, “Positive Living.” A similar publication in more condensed form is “Bits & Pieces.”

5. Join up.

Just about any group offers possibilities for making contacts and achieving personal growth: Dancing. Choir. Coin-collecting. Horseback-riding. Art appreciation. Theater-going. Antiques-shopping. Politics. Great books. Wine. Food. You’ll meet others with similar interests who are ready to network.

6. Have a little faith in yourself.

Dale Carnegie probably summed it up best: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one.”

The more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they’ll get — and the easier networking becomes.

Stand Out

One of the purposes of networking is to stand out from the pack. If you network successfully, you’ll become known as the person who can be counted on to remember birthdays, offer praise for a promotion and is always just a phone call away.

But what happens when everyone starts to do those things? You no longer stand out. This is a problem, especially as more people begin to understand the power of networking.

What do you do to make sure you stand out? You have to use your imagination. And you have to take the extra step. Let me give you three quick examples:

  • Don’t ever send another business Christmas card. Oh sure, they’re lovely. Sending cards is a nice gesture and everyone does it. But that’s exactly the point. Everyone does it. And because they do, nobody remembers them. Want proof? Ask yourself this: What was the last Christmas card you remember receiving at the office?Don’t get lost in the crowd. Instead of sending Christmas cards, send Thanksgiving cards (there are great ones out there). Your card will likely be the first holiday impression a person gets. Always use a beautiful commemorative stamp, and include a one-paragraph handwritten personal note. And if you’re resourceful, send out birthday cards.
  • Be polite.You don’t think this will make you stand out? You’re wrong. We are all too time-stressed. We never can get it all done. These days, the person who responds quickly to a phone call or note has discovered a true way to be a differentiator.One of the stories told about Billy Graham involves an incident that occurred while he was in a diner with staff members. When the waitress serving the group recognized Billy, she dropped her tray, scattering dishes all over the place. Mr. Graham immediately leaped up and helped her clean the mess. How many of us would reach out to another person and help her through an embarrassing moment? Billy Graham’s act defined good manners: consideration for the feelings of others.
  • Send a creative present to a person’s kids. Be honest: What can you possibly get the Big Kahuna that’s actually going to impress her? But if you get her 10-year-old son an autographed baseball from his favorite player, or a handwritten note to her daughter from a well-known person, you probably won’t have problems getting your phone calls returned.Geraldine Laybourne, a Nickelodeon television executive, found herself seated next to the legendary Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz during last year’s NBA playoffs. Although she’d never met Mr. Ovitz, she struck up a conversation with his companion, who happened to be his nine-year-old son, Eric.

    “Ovitz perewas impressed,” reported Leadership magazine. Six months later, Mr. Ovitz, then president of Disney, called Ms. Laybourne and persuaded her to leave Nickelodeon to become president of the Disney/ABC Cable Networks. “In her new position, Laybourne will be the most visible woman executive in broadcasting,” according to Leadership. She’s already proven that she’s one of the best networkers in the network business.

    What do you have to offer that makes you memorable? What connects you with the person you most want to be remembered by?

    — Mr. Mackay is a bestselling author, motivational speaker and nationally syndicated columnist. This article has been adapted by permission from his book, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need” (Currency Book-Doubleday, 1997).

    Email your comments to

 Marcia, Your Confidence Coach





  1. maleah said

    What would you say to a person who feels they are lacking in confidence and self esteem and could stand to be a lot less shy, but doesn’t really want to be the life of the party, and doesn’t place value on having millions of aquaintances. I know what you’re thinking: That’s just what a shy person would say…If I wasn’t shy I would embrace causual friendships and networking. But what if you are a misanthrope and just aren’t interested in what other people have to say…what if you are much more interested in building or creating and it litterally bores you to talk to people. Don’t get me wrong, this means you assume others are equally as uninteresting in talking to you. How do I genuinely get interested in other people??? What do you do if you hate the generic conversation you’ve had a million times before with someone who you don’t care about and doesn’t care about you either. It’s only once in a great while that I meet someone I really click with—and that usually occures without a lot of conversation–because we get that we both are bored from talking and listening to others talk. It is the most painfull thing for me to hang out with one other person while they talk and talk and talk, usually in a rushed tone, about their job or their drama. I want to know the weird, idiosyncratic things that make you unique. For some reason, I don’t want to bother with people who don’t really get me and who just seem too much the way they are supposed to be. I want real! And when I feel like I’ll get a snotty look for something I might say that’s “inappropriate”, I just don’t bother at all because I’m also too sensative. I know it’s really bad. It is, I know. No really, I’m obviously a total asshole. This is how I ultimately feel: I don’t like people, but I want them to like me. That’s the truth. I just happen to be shy on top of all of this. If I wasn’t so timid, I’d probably just be a jerk. So what’s better? I’m the fake one. I act nice, because I’m too scared to tell anyone how I really feel, but really, I want to punch them in the face. Not really, but I would like to let them know I think they’re utterly boring, and wish they’d stop talking to me. After all of that disorganized ranting, I still would like to know if there is a solution for me. How do I make all of these preferences, and personality traits work together? Is it possible?

  2. abetteryou said

    hi maleah,
    Wow you have a lot going on. you obviously are seeking a better way to be or you would not be reading blogs on shyness.

    let’s accept the fact that chit chat or idle conversation has it’s place in business and “proper” social, business events. this is called being polite and these events are not there for deep friendships and conversation. these are light events. if your sister got married you would attend because you love your sister not to engage in deep conversations. so try to get this clear in your mind. what is your purpose for attending these events?

    a lot of people may not enjoy these events just like you but they attend because the purpose is not friendship but business, networking, supporting a friend or loved one etc. so i say stop thinking that the world centers around you and be less selfish and more open, warm and caring. try to get your head on straight.

    friendship and love are something else. this is where you can get up close and personal.

    you seem to want something but you are afraid to give up anything to get it. stop judging and start listening. let down yor guard. the impression you are giving off is not one of ” i want to get to know you better.” it is “i know you and you bore me and i dont like you” what can you expect from that kind of a communication? believe me you are not as skilled as you think you are in misleading people. they get a vibe from you and it is not a good one.

    so think on all this. are you someone you would want to be with? i see you have anger but i dont get what that is about. certainly not from the people you are with. this is deep rooted somewhere and you need to examine that.

    for starters i would say buy the shyness product. you need skills and this will give you some. this will at least make things easier for you. see what happens when you learn and practice these skills. you have to start somewhere.

    being shy is complex. it is not necessarily one issue as you have presented in your post. nevertheless you have to start somewhere to get somplace different than where you are. so take the plunge and see what happens.

    marcia your conifdence coach

  3. […] Have a great day! And read more about dealing with shyness on this other blog I want to share with you: No more shyness, work, career, and more. […]

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