How Anxiety Affects My Ability to Network

I consider myself an extremely awkward person. Even though it may not seem like it to some people, I get terrible anxiety sometimes when it comes to social interactions. I have been this way my whole life, but now I realize that I need to put myself out there more if I want to be successful.

I think I have a decent number of supporters, but it’s honestly because of the confidence I feel behind a screen. A lot of my networking has been done through social media and emails. I have no problem emailing or contacting somebody I want to connect with on social media, because what’s the worst that can happen, I get left on read? I have that barrier of a screen to save me the embarrassment if I get rejected, but networking in person is a whole nother story.

Sometimes I go to events and I see someone I want to connect with. I see them standing there, they are completely accessible and I freeze up. What do I say? How do I break the ice? Am I going to sound stupid? I can never predict how approaching a stranger is going to turn out, and it makes me so anxious. I’ve never actually been rejected when I explain to someone what I am doing professionally, but the possibility lingers in my head. Another reason I get nervous, is because I feel like I don’t sound that confident. I know why I started my business and the goals I want to accomplish, but talking about myself is so uncomfortable.

I went to a music video shoot Sunday and I met a lot of amazing women who have skills I am in need of for upcoming projects. I connected with around six different women, but each time I felt awkward as hell. All of them were super sweet and extremely open to working with me. Once I approach someone and I see that they are open to connecting with me, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder. All I have to do is get past that initial approach… it’s just so hard though!

Reading the article Five Ways To Get Uncomfortable. gave me some much needed insight on how to get more comfortable in social situations. I know that I need to utilize these tips and others, because if I wasn’t so anxious, I would be much further along professionally than I am today. I have been in the presence of so many successful individuals and organizations and missed making the connection simply because of my fear. I absolutely have to get past this, because at this point the only one hindering my progress is me. I saw a meme yesterday that really inspired me. It said “Hustle ’til the people you could never reach start reaching out to you.” I want this for myself and I feel like in order to achieve this I have to be persistent and much more proactive. Sometimes when I need motivation I think of the movie Sparkle starring Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks. When I first watched the movie I was in aw at the scene where Sparkle stayed at the record label all day everyday and patiently waited until someone gave her a shot. I would wish that I had the confidence to go out and get my dream like that so 2019 I’m determined to dedicate all my energy into my dreams, no matter how nervous and anxious I am.

Here are five tips that have helped me with my anxiety when networking:

1. Have a relevant tangible item in your hand

I realized this when tabling for my sorority at San Jose State. Having an item like a business card or flyer makes me SO much more comfortable talking to people. I don’t know, it’s just awkward for me to approach someone empty handed, so if you feel that same way, try having a relevant item with you.

 2. Give yourself a pep talk

I know it may seem lame, but honestly giving myself pep talks whether it is before the event or in the moment helps. A perfect example is Issa Rae’s mirror talks on the show Insecure. Sometimes you have to remind yourself who the hell you are!

3. Approach casually

Depending on the setting, I would say casually approach the desired individual. If you are at a party, go dance near the person or compliment them. I wouldn’t approach them all serious in a casual setting. I’ve learned that it’s better to lighten the mood and break the ice before you talk business.

4. Write yourself a script

A lot of times when I am networking, I get SO nervous that my words get all jumbled up or my mind goes blank. You’d think I’d be able to talk about my business effortlessly, but the anxiety sends the false message that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Write yourself a speech to say when you are out networking. Just having a little something prepared and written out that you have practiced repeatedly could help out tremendously.

5. Don’t come up with presumptions

The thing that I do that contributes to my anxiety is coming up with presumptions. A lot of times I’ll see somebody I want to connect with and depending on their facial expressions and body language I will decide if I want to approach them. This is detrimental, because based on appearance you never know what kind of person someone will be.

Ex. Someone with a resting bitch face can be the friendliest and most willing one in the room.

I know that everyone is different, but these simple techniques helped me a lot! I have a long way to go, but any amount of progress is better than none. Do any of you guys deal with anxiety or have any tips for me? Go awf below :).


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