Shantanu is a bright young professional, highly qualified and competent; his worry is that he is losing out on promotion opportunities because of his shyness. "I become so self conscious around people that I don't speak up in meetings, this makes others i.e. coworkers, and supervisors think that I have no good ideas to share". He talks about his interpersonal problems, self-confidence, speaking up in meetings, difficulties trying to make contact with people, networking with people, going to business social events etc. and he realizes all these make it difficult for him to connect with others, and is hampering his progress.
Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Indiana University, head of the Shyness Research Institute and author of 'Shyness: A Bold New Approach and The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk', argues that when shyness is properly managed, there is no limit to the achievement of shy people in the business world. Carducci points to the success of notably shy Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of the world's richest and most successful people, and also a shy person. What do shy people who succeed professionally have in common, according to Carducci? They are in control of their shyness instead of it controlling them.
For people like Shantanu who consider themselves victims of their Shy disposition, these tips may be very useful.
Most shy people tend to show up late so that they don't have to engage in small talk with others in the meeting. This has the undesirable effect of making them feel more isolated.
If you feel uncomfortable in meetings, it would help to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early so that you can meet people as they arrive.
Use Listening Skills To Your Advantage
If you suffer with social anxiety in meetings, you will probably never be the most eloquent speaker in the group. Instead, use your listening skills to your advantage. If you listen carefully to what others say and choose your words carefully, others will admire your wisdom and patience.
Do your best to prepare and research issues before a meeting so that you are up to date on the subject and your knowledge will be a source of self-confidence. Wear clothes that are comfortable and professional, and that make you feel good. Before going into a business meeting, try talking on the phone with a friend or family member that makes you feel relaxed and then carry that feeling with you into the meeting.
If you will be required to speak to the group, be sure to use some sort of visual medium as part of your presentation. Visuals are great tools both for getting a message across and drawing attention away from yourself.
Speaking to Supervisors
Some people struggle to feel comfortable with people in authority. Experts say we need to keep in mind that supervisors are people, too. And they like to be recognized just as anyone else does. So, if you feel anxious around your manager, for example, try to say just one thing to them on the way into the office. Ask them how their weekend was or how their family is doing. If you talk to that person in those low-stress situations, then when you get into a more supervisory situation, you've got some kind of history with the person. If you hold back and only speak to people about work-related things, you don't have much comfort or much of a relationship when it comes time to talk about something more challenging.
If you find speaking with a supervisor anxiety provoking, it is best to plan ahead. See if you can make an appointment to speak with your supervisor and practice what you are going to say in advance. This way, he or she is prepared to listen to you and you will be more at ease.
Business Social Functions
Most places of work have endless array of social functions that you are expected to attend, for example the company picnic, the annual Christmas party, retirement gatherings, business lunches, etc.
No matter how much you dislike it, an office party is a chance to get to know your co-workers better and present yourself in a good light to your boss and coworkers.
Coping Strategies for social anxiety
You will have a better time and meet more people if you are open and friendly. Even if you feel anxious, do your best to smile, make eye contact and appear approachable.
Who To Talk With
If you are not particularly close with your coworkers, it may be hard to know who to talk with at the office party. Often it is easiest to join conversations that are already ongoing. It may also be easier to talk with spouses of co-workers, since they may not know anyone at the party and would be grateful to have someone with whom to talk.
Even if speaking with the boss makes you nervous, it is important to shake hands and say hello so that your presence is known.
What To Talk About
Although it is an office party the conversation should not revolve around work. Try to get to know people on a personal level. Ask questions and listen to what others have to say. For example, people love to talk about vacations they're planning or have recently taken. People rarely get tired of being asked about their children. And current events usually get people talking. Think of what's topical right now in the news and ask your fellow partygoers what they think. To make sure that you have something to talk about, read the newspaper, visit an online news source, or read current magazines
What Not To Do
The biggest mistake that you could make at the office party is to not show up. Treat the party as a work function and force yourself to go even if you are anxious.
Once there, it is not enough just to show up. If you spend the evening sitting alone, you will not only have a miserable time but send the wrong impression to your co-workers and superiors that you are not interested in them.
Above all, avoid using alcohol to overcome your inhibitions. Often just the passage of time will have the same effect on reducing inhibitions as consuming alcohol.
Networking is an important part of being successful in your career. If you aren't able to build relationships with the people that you work with, it will be much more difficult to advance at work. In addition, since you spend most of your waking hours at work, wouldn't you like to have friends there?
To become more comfortable with co-workers, engage in small talk with people that you see throughout the day -- in the lunchroom, in the elevator, and at the water cooler. Greet people with general comments or compliments and start brief conversations. Gradually other people will see that you are the kind of person that is approachable and easily talks with a variety of people.