Everyone feels trepidation in certain business situations. However, workplace interactions can lead to discomfort, awkwardness and inhibition in people who are naturally shy. If you’re shy, chances are you’ve experienced challenges with networking and giving presentations. Shy people may also feel difficulty in being heard and making a contribution to the organization.
The good news is that by boosting your interpersonal skills, you can overcome shyness, perform to your capability and achieve your full potential. These easy-to-follow tips can help shy people succeed at work, each day and throughout their careers.
1. Practice With People You’re Comfortable With
Networking is an important activity for most professionals – but shy people dread the idea of walking into a room full of strangers. Before your next networking event, enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to help you learn a few strategies to make it a success…
• Practice introducing yourself.
• Memorize an “elevator speech” that describes your work in just a few sentences.
• Practice open-ended questions. “How is your business faring since the recession?” “What type of customer is a good fit for you?” and “What challenges do you see for the coming year?” are good conversation starters.
• Have your friend ask you a variety of questions so you can prepare your answers.
At the event, find someone you know. Ask him or her to introduce you to others. Resist the temptation to stand against the wall by yourself. Walk around, make eye contact and smile. Position yourself near the food or drinks for more opportunities to say hello.
Don’t forget to talk about non-professional interests. “What do you do for fun?” is a great way to get people to relax – which can help you relax, as well.
2. Look for Common Interests
You probably have more in common with your co-workers – and everyone else you come into contact with – than you realize. It’s easier to start a conversation when you’re talking about a topic you care about. Keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to identify other peoples’ interests; for example:
• Your coffee shop barista wears her favorite baseball team’s hat.
• Your co-worker displays a photo of her dog on her desk.
• A fellow conference attendee works with an old friend of yours.
If you share someone’s love of Labrador Retrievers, use it as an icebreaker. Regardless of whether or not you follow baseball, ask your barista how her team is doing this season (or last season, or how they’re looking for next season). People love to talk about their interests. And it’s okay for you to talk about your interests, as well. You’ll have a much easier time conversing when the subject is one you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.
3. Focus on Preparation
Presentations, job interviews and must-have conversations with supervisors and co-workers can all present big challenges for shy people. To improve your performance in these interactions, take the time to fully prepare.
Try visualizing the entire interaction: imagine how the presentation will go, or what you’ll say in the job interview. Anticipate the questions you’ll get, and how you’ll answer them. Picture everyone in the room giving you positive feedback. Tell yourself you are an outstanding presenter, job candidate, or employee. Take your focus off yourself, and concentrate on the material, the interviewer, or your co-worker or boss.
Thorough preparation can make all the difference. With practice, you can improve your interpersonal skills, and eventually, you’ll start feeling more confident at work.
4. Become a Strong Listener
Next time you’re in a conversation, ask yourself, “Am I really hearing this person, or simply waiting for my turn to talk?” The truth is, most people can tell when they’re not being heard. And, they respond very favorable when it’s clear that you are listening to them. When you are immersed in what another person is saying, they will be much more interested in what you have to say.
Listening intently can help you improve your communication skills, as well as your career opportunities. How? By learning the art of listening, you’ll develop more meaningful relationships, professional awareness and the interpersonal skills that lead to success.
Listen for verbal cues about the person’s emotional state or mood. Check out his or her body language for additional clues about what’s not being said. Don’t interrupt, but summarize the conversation when you get a chance, to let the speaker know you understand. For shy people, listening with a focus on the other person can be the key to a new professional life.
5. Don’t Let People Walk All Over You
You’re shy. You’re working on overcoming it. In the meantime, don’t let co-workers or supervisors take advantage of your nature. Perhaps you’ve been bullied or denied fair treatment. Maybe your opinions are ignored or you’re overloaded with work – because it’s a well-known fact that you won’t protest.
Ignoring certain unpleasant workplace behavior is necessary for survival; however, you don’t have to tolerate unfair treatment, bullying, or being disrespected. If people are walking all over you, it won’t stop until you make it stop. And guess what? You have the power to do so.
Find your voice and use it. Visualize the conversation (see tip #3) and prepare yourself before telling your co-worker that you want to be included in the next sales meeting. Prepare, and then tell your boss that you won’t work overtime without pay any longer. And prepare to tell the office bully to back off. Remember to keep it professional and show respect for the other person, no matter how difficult it may be.
Overcome Shyness and Unleash Your Potential
These five tips for success can make a real difference in any shy person’s professional life. With preparation and practice, you can learn valuable skills that can lead to greater confidence. Soon, you’ll be ready to take more risks, achieve your full potential and create a successful career – no matter what field you’re in.