We get it – networking can be nerve-wracking. How do you break into a conversation between total strangers? What do you talk about? How is this supposed to be useful, anyway?
Well+Good, a healthy lifestyle resource, has tips and tricks from clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D. for those who get sweaty palms even thinking about networking.
[Dr. Hendriksen] offers a general piece of advice that can be applied whenever your anxiety rears its head: Focus on your surroundings. “When we’re in a socially anxious moment, usually our attention starts turning inward and we monitor ourselves, trying to figure out how we’re coming across,” she explains. (Cue annoying thoughts like, Does it look more natural if I put my hands in my pockets?) “To remedy this, we should turn our attention to what is happening outside [of ourselves], listening closely to what the other person is saying,” Dr. Hendriksen says.
…At a cocktail party or networking event, Dr. Hendriksen’s pro tip: Go in with a plan. According to one study, she says, when socially anxious people were given a task—getting to know as many people as they could in five minutes—they were actually just as socially competent as women who were overly extroverted. But when they were unknowingly evaluated on how good they were at small talk with strangers without given a task, they didn’t do so hot.
“You can tell yourself, ‘I’m going to talk to five people tonight,’ or ‘I’m going to get to know two people tonight,’” Dr. Hendriksen recommends. That way, you head into the situation with an agenda and a goal—not just a looming cloud of self-doubt.
Want to learn how to tackle more social scenarios? Read on!