Feeling socially awkward or an introvert like me? Ways to build new relationships that will fit your personality.
When I started my first corporate job, my mentor impressed upon me that I needed to build my network. She told me that building my network would be not only important for my job but also important for my career.
The idea of networking made me nervous but being an executive assistant meant that I would need to know a lot of people at the company to coordinate meetings for my boss and also to have access to resources to help both of us do our jobs efficiently.
My first idea was to develop relationships with the other executive assistants at the company by coordinating monthly “Bring Your Own Lunch” meetings and inviting all of them. It was nice to get to know them better over these monthly lunches. They also appreciated getting to see each other more often than that did without those monthly lunches.
Coordinating these group lunches was beneficial from another angle.
For most of my life, I felt socially awkward. I felt especially awkward if I was the new person in an established group. I felt like I was bad at small talk in a one-on-one conversation.
Because of that belief, I would prefer to mostly listen and observe. But being the organizer of these lunches increased the likelihood that others would introduce themselves and strike up a conversation with me. And that was a relief!
To show you how awkward I felt at large gatherings, I’ll share what is now a funny story. Years ago, I arrived at an event, checked in at the registration table, looked around and saw everyone talking in small groups and I didn’t want to intrude upon a conversation and draw attention to myself. My breathing got heavy and my face began to flush. So, I headed straight for the lady’s restroom to hide.
Yes. That’s right. I hid in the bathroom.
I was a new member of Impact100 Metro Detroit and I had RSVP’d for the Big Reveal — the event that reveals how much money the organization has raised to award to other local non-profits in the form of high impact grants. The funny thing is that I knew many of the women there.
I used that uncomfortable feeling to try a new strategy.
I would volunteer in advance to fill a role at an event to feel more comfortable — like I belonged there. Example: working the check-in table. From then on, I would volunteer to help with some part of the event.
And, you know what? It worked. I feel so much more comfortable at events when I had a responsibility at the event. It was an easy way to meet more and more people.
In tomorrow’s article, I will share about new doors that opened up to me as I learned how to come out of my comfort zone and genuinely connect with new people around me.