How To Turn Social Anxiety Into A Positive Networking Experience

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Do you ever get the networking jitters before entering a crowded room full of strangers? Fear of rejection, overanalyzing, and self-sabotage can certainly threaten the quality of our interactions if we let it. However, I have noticed that the more I implement a strategy around turning my "networking nervousness" into "meeting mindfulness", my confidence stays strong, along with the quality of my interactions.

1) Proactive - Research & Connect

Be mindful of how taking a more proactive vs. reactive approach can decrease anxiety. Consider carving out 30 minutes prior to the event to research the host, and who may be in attendance. A great way to do this is to see how it is promoted on social media, and how people are engaging with posts and RSVP's. Perhaps messaging a few in advance letting them know that you look forward to meeting them there will help you both feel more at ease. This way you can have some ice breaker convos already lined up!

An even more strategic approach before the event would be to connect via email or messenger with the host/hostess directly. Let them know how much you appreciate them for organizing the event, and offer to share the event details with friends. Tagging them on a social media post sharing their event is a great way to show you care. Consider asking the host/hostess if they could think of at least 1-2 people who will be in attendance that could be an especially great connection for your line of work. This creates a win-win relationship right off the bat with you not only building rapport with the host/hostess, but also setting up strategic networking introductions for each other.

This level of proactive planning before the event will decrease the anxiety that often comes with feeling "lost". They are included as part of what I describe as "meeting mindfulness", because it helps us be more mindful in how we will spend out time and energy meeting people.

2) Practice - Positive Imagery & Affirmations

Be mindful of your self talk and how you picture yourself before, during, and after the event. Have you ever seen the movie The Secret? This movie has been a life changer for me. It is based on the best-selling 2006 self-help book, by Rhonda Byrne, which sold 30 million copies worldwide, and was translated into 50 languages. I recommend watching this movie because it provides an entertaining, yet thought provoking, overview of the law of attraction. It goes into detail regarding how your mindset ultimately controls your potential. The power of positive imagery and affirmations can truly transform your life.

Knowing that the energy we feed is the energy that grows, I like to take 5 minutes before going into an event to do a quick "positivity boost". Saying affirmations, while picturing a positive outcome, is often part of this ritual (obviously while still in my car so that people don't think I'm crazy lol). Statements such as: "I am confident and intelligent. I engage others with ease and grace. People walk away from me feeling valued and inspired. I walk away with more friends and referral partners." Essentially, this "meeting mindfulness" visualization ritual will help create more authentic connections by reinforcing the need for both parties to feel valued.

3) Power Partner - Be A Connector

Be mindful of how you enter the room. One way I alleviate social anxiety for myself is by helping someone else who is demonstrating it more. Be observant. Often there is at least one person standing alone at the bar or by the exit, trying to drown their awkwardness with huge gulps of alcohol. I usually break the ice with them playfully drawing attention to my own sense of awkwardness, which helps put us both more at ease. We talk about how we heard about the event, and why we wanted to come. The conversation transitions into what we do for a living, while I listen for queues as it relates to my new friend's unique strengths and interests. Then I say, "How about I work the room as your Power Partner. This means as I network, I will be on the look out for others who might be a good introduction for you tonight based on your strengths. Here is my card. We've got this!" Now that I have a selfless "mission" to make at least 2 positive introductions for my new friend, I have inadvertently taken the focus off of myself and any social anxiety that I may be feeling. I feel more empowered to succeed knowing that I am empowering someone else to do the same. Win-win for everybody!

In Conclusion

Essentially, the root of social anxiety is the fear of rejection. The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America (ADAA) has a great article called Understanding The Facts: Social Anxiety Disorder , and explains how debilitating it can be. "As a result, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress. Many people with social anxiety disorder also experience strong physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, and may experience full-blown attacks when confronting a feared situation. Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless against their anxiety." Thus I have learned through experience, that the more intentional I can became in channeling negative energy into positive, the less social anxiety has power over me. This freedom is then what empowers me to create connections that count.


About The Author: With over 10 years of professional sales and marketing experience, Rebecca Chalson's go-getter and personable approach to business development has earned her recognition with Forbes, 40 Under 40, and several other regional awards. Having developed her personal network from the ground up, she enjoys educating realtors, and various industry groups, on how to tap into their core strengths in order to create REAL connections, while effectively growing their circle of influence. Her curriculum includes practical guidance in personal branding, strategic networking, influencer marketing, event planning, social media engagement, and building authentic relationships offline.


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