Networking for Shy People

Everyone seems to understand the importance of being a good networker, but I know very few people who actually like doing it.

I’ve not always liked it, but I love it now. For the most part.

See, I’m a really shy person. It’s hard for others to tell, because I’ve worked hard at just getting over my shyness. Also, I’m an extrovert, though I struggle when meeting new people. Interversion is often equated with being shy, but they’re not the same thing. An extrovert is energized by being with others and an introvert is energized by being alone. In contrast, a shy person struggles when meeting new people. So for me, it’s that initial meeting with either strangers or even with people I already know that requires a lot of energy from me.

So how can a shy person make that transition to becoming a networking mogul?

Play to your strengths.

In Gallup StrengthsFinders parlance, I’m a Relator. I prefer to deepen relationships rather than making new ones, which tends to lead to shyness. I always prefer hanging with a small group of friends over meeting a room full of strangers. Though I dread cocktail parties, oddly I almost always enjoy them. I try to focus on one or two people at a time, assuming we can develop some rapport, and try to get to know them.

I use my other strengths to get that rapport started. I use my curiosity (in this case, Input, or desire to gather information), my creativity (Ideation, making creative associations and tangents to fuel the discussion), connectedness (find connections to other things/people) and then swing to Relator to deepen the relationship once we get off the ground.

Working with people I like really motivates me to find out what we have in common and build on it. I’m puzzled by those that focus on differences and those that state that they have “nothing in common” with another person. Do we not all have basically the same needs and desires: to live a good life, raise happy, successful children, and to feel loved and appreciated? If you believe that you have nothing in common, you will find that you have nothing to talk about. If you believe you share similar goals, yearnings and desires, you can make a friend for life.

Which is more fun, interesting and rewarding? What better way to turn an awful cocktail party into something rewarding and meaningful? Who knows, you may soon be working with your new friend.

The Popularity of Christmas

Holiday cheer

Holiday cheer

83% of Americans are Christian.

However, only 2/3 of Christians view Christmas as a religious holiday and 1/3 as a cultural holiday. My high math skills also tells me that 17% of Americans are not Christian, of which apparently 80% celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday. In other words, approximately 40% of Americans view Christmas as a cultural holiday.

Despite the popularity of Christmas, compared to our childhood, we are less likely to participate in Christmas rituals like going to a holiday party (91 vs. 86%), putting up a tree (92 vs. 79%), or sending holiday cards (81 vs. 65%). We’ve seem to have given up on pretending there is a Santa (72 vs. 31%). Even buying gifts may have gone down (89 vs. 86%).

So why does it seem we make an even bigger deal about Christmas these days? It seems the entire month of December is given over to Christmas, and much of November now. I can’t find a single family event in Richmond in December that doesn’t have a Christmas theme. There’s hardly a store in town that isn’t playing holiday music or sporting holiday décor all month long.

I don’t even feel comfortable saying this aloud (so instead I’ll blog about it on the internet): It’s not that I dislike Christmas. I just wish there were a little less of it. I would just enjoy Christmas more if it weren’t everywhere, everything, all month long.

In contrast, the most important holiday for the Chinese is Chinese New Years. Approximately 1/6 of the world’s population lives in China. That does not count the rest of the world’s ethnic Chinese and other Asians that celebrate this holiday. Is there a single event in Richmond that I can go to each year to celebrate Chinese New Years? Where’s the parade with firecrackers? Does anyone in the grocery store wish me a Happy New Year in February? What if I got mad at them for not doing so and complain to the manager or write a letter to the editor about the War on Chinese New Years? I can’t even find red envelopes at the Martin’s, CVS or Target. Ai ya.

That being said, given that 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas in some manner, IMHO it’s appropriate for the Christmas theme to pervade our culture. I simply ask that if we’re not all so gung ho about it all month, please do not judge us. We are busy figuring out what date Chinese New Years falls this year and planning our private, solo event. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Mindless Entertainment?

I once participated in an icebreaker game where you anonymously shared a secret about yourself and everyone had to guess who the secret belonged to. My secret? I was a soap opera junkie (well, it was specific to the former All My Children).

No one guessed me. No one.

That’s because those that know me think of me as a fairly serious-minded, no-nonsense intellectual. No way that I’d like such mindless entertainment like a soap opera.

Now that you know my little secret, you may not be surprised that I also love Millionaire Matchmaker, America’s Top Model, Project Runway and have been obsessed with American Idol during certain seasons. Other reality TV shows: not so much.

In short, I defy the intellectual stereotype by watching decidedly un-intellectual TV.

Why do I like these shows? Mindless entertainment? Or something more? After some reflection, I believe that such shows speak to a deep part of me that yearns for something, whether something I love to do or the impact I wish to have on the world. It’s not something that I yearn to be, per se.  At least not for me.  If it were, I would be obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance or Top Chef.

No, I think for me it has to do with the idea that no matter who you are, we are all on a journey to find the best in ourselves. What’s striking about each show is that an individual may seem very ordinary at first glance but we then find that they have something extraordinary inside. The contestants, even oftentimes the models, appear as ordinary folk until they open their mouth, cut a square of fabric, or get in front of a camera.  Some even appear to be a ‘loser’ until they’re in their element. The ones that learn and grow are the ones that win the competition.

The opposite is true for the millionaires. On the surface they seem like they have the perfect life, but underneath they are also just like everyone else: on a journey to make the most of their lives.   And when it comes to relationships, we’re all the same. A boorish jerk who is a millionaire is not much more likely to be in a successful relationship than a boorish jerk who is poor. Some of them learn, grow, and then ‘win’ by finding love.

Each show features a challenge, where to be successful, the individual must undergo a transformation to discover the best in themselves. We all yearn to do so, regardless of whether we’re the poor little rich girl, or simply the poor little girl. We all have it in us.   It’s not always so obvious. It’s not always something that’s encouraged by our loved ones or our culture. But we all have a shining thing that we do….we all have a shining self that we can share…if we can find the courage to uncover it.

What shining thing do you do? How do you bring out the best in yourself for others?   What’s blocking you from doing so?  Bring your inner Simon, Heidi, Tyra, or Patty to grow past it.  Return to your life transformed. You win.