More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Friends are Vital to Small Business Success

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 7, 2007

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How engaged do you feel in your business? 

Do you get up every morning eager to start the day, or do you find yourself looking for ways to postpone the inevitable email, phone calls and paperwork? 

Do you look forward to serving your customers, or feel frustrated that they seem to grow more annoying every day? 

Do you find yourself wondering where the fun has gone?

I’ve been reading Tom Rath’s book Vital Friends which delves into research that indicates that the single most important factor in feeling engaged – is whether or not you have a best friend at work.  

In fact,  research shows that if you have a best friend at work you are significantly more likely to:

  • engage your customers
  • get more done in less time
  • have fun on the job
  • have a safe workplace with fewer accidents
  • innovate and share new ideas
  • feel informed and know that your opinions count
  • have the opportunity to focus on your strengths each day

Rath’s research focused on corporate environments. But it made me wonder about the implications for entrepreneurs, who many times work by themselves. 

Wouldn’t you like to reap these benefits in your own life?

In yesterday’s post we discussed how important it is to have a support system in order to see you through the loneliness and challenges of being in business for yourself. Today’s post demonstrates that a strong support system is necessary in order to give our best to our business, our customers and ourselves.

So, what can solo-entrepreneurs do to obtain the benefits of friendship in the workplace?

One method is to look for creative opportunities to partner with other entrepreneurs in similar professions:

  • collaborate with others on presentations, books, and workshops
  • swap ideas for marketing and advertising
  • create a mastermind group to focus on business development
  • volunteer with others in professional organizations
  • share publicity on community service projects

What other methods do you use to increase your connection to others? How does partnering with others on projects or presentations influence your mood and energy level?  

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Entrepreneurs Don’t have to Be Isolated

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 6, 2007

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One of the recurring themes with my readers and clients is that of loneliness.   Even if they don’t come right out and say the words “I’m lonely”, it is there between the lines.  They tell me that their “friends don’t understand why they don’t get a real job”,  their “mother is worried they can’t support themselves”,  and their “spouse doesn’t take their business seriously”. 

Building a business for yourself can be extremely isolating. There is no one who shares the same vision of the future that you do.  The dream you have for yourself and for your business is fragile.  It takes a lot of energy to keep that dream alive despite your own doubts and fears, let alone those of others.

Successful entrepreneurs are those who find a support system early on. Most are not fortunate enough to have one ready-made; Smart entrepreneurs make it a point to build one, even before they need it.  They know that having others who believe in them can help to keep their dream alive when their vision starts to fade.

Support systems are crucial to success because it is vitally important to have someone who you can share your concerns with and who will listen without judgment.  As Entrepreneurs we all  need a safe place to explore ideas, options, and possibilities.  We need to be able to express our doubts, fears, and worries without the fear that we will be shot down, ridiculed or simply patted on the head. 

Ideally we need someone who sees our strengths even when we no longer do, and reminds us of why we and our business are going to be successful.

So how do you find someone to be all and do all those things in your life?

The first place to look is within your existing circle of friends and family. Is there anyone you could reach out to who meets that criteria?  Don’t feel bad if there isn’t.  Many times family members are too dependent on our success to be objective and supportive  – they are afraid, too.  And while your friends want to help, some will discourage you because they don’t want to see you hurt, while others won’t be able to control their own feelings of envy because you are pursuing something they would like to do.

The next place to look is within the network that you are developing. Remember networking isn’t just about finding prospective customers. Networking helps you find a circle of like-minded people who are on a similar journey.   Sometimes it is easier to share concerns with acquaintances than it is with family members. You are able to express doubts without being as emotional. They are able to listen more objectively.  And if they are also entrepreneurs, they will relate to your experiences. 

Most towns have a chamber of commerce, a rotary club or a women’s business organization such as ABWA, BPW or NAWBO.  If there are no network opportunities in your area, you can also reach out to online networks such as LinkedIn  or My Woman Owned Business network, forums or by writing comments on blogs such as this one.

A third option is a SCORE counselor.  SCORE is a national volunteer service providing free counseling to America’s Small Business from experienced entrepreneurs or professionals.  Many cities have a SCORE office but SCORE also offers online support.  Their support tends to be short-term and topic specific but they can help you to obejectively explore concerns when you have a crisis.

A fourth option is to hire a professional coach.  Coaches combine objectivity with a long-term relationship.  Coaches provide a safe, objective place to explore doubts, fears and options. They listen without judgment and help their clients seek answers. They remind clients of their strengths or point out strengths the clients didn’t even know they had. Coaches also have the advantage of perspective as they see many clients struggle with similar issues. Many coaches are also experienced in aspects of business and can help educate the client about choices without giving advice.

Coaching is most effectiveness when there is a strong relationship between a coach and client. Be sure to find a coach that you connect with. Most offer a complimentary consultation to determine whether there is a good fit.  Coach referrals can be gotten through the ICF, International Coaching Federation.   I occasionally have openings in my own practice, or know of coaches who have openings so feel free to contact me directly as well.

The key is to not remain isolated; businesses that might otherwise be successful can falter due to loneliness and isolation.  Building a business is hard; Being an entrepreneur can be lonely; But you do not have to be alone – there are 19 million entrepreneurs in this country, 10 million of whom are women. 

Reach out. Take a risk. Share yourself.  Don’t give up. Above all, Keep your dream alive.

What support challenges do you have? Who helps you keep your dreams alive? I’d love to hear about it – please comment below or reply to me confidentially on my About page.

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Work/Life Balance for the Entrepreneur

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 5, 2007

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In yesterday’s post I discussed the challenge of taking a break from working. Entrepreneurs are prone to becoming workaholics, especially when we have found something that fuels our passion.

But I heard back from several of you that your challenge lies in the opposite direction – you have trouble staying motivated.  Sure, you still love the idea of your business, but you tend to avoid some of the less appealing aspects.  Items that are less interesting or downright unsettling keep dropping to the bottom of your to-do list. Before you realize it, it’s been weeks since you balanced your checkbook, sent out a follow-up invoice, made a sales call, or pitched a workshop.

We even find ourselves putting off working on the aspects of the business that we do like. Maybe you love to create new designs or write articles or develop workshops. Even so, we put off these activities because we fear that our end product won’t be “good enough”.  We prefer the vision we have in our mind to the product we create with our hands.

The common theme between both challenges: working too much or working too little is balance; We need to find the right proportion of work in our daily lives.

One way to do this is to put more structure around our enterprises:

  • establish work hours – either specific hours that you work (ex. 8 to 3) or a specific amount of hours (ex. 7 hours per day)
  • establish goals for the week – make a list on Sunday of all the things you will get done the following week and by when 
  • partner with an accountability buddy – check in, in the morning to let them know what you plan to accomplish during the day and then check in, in the evening to let them know whether or not you succeeded

 I know that part of the reason you went into business for yourself is because you wanted the schedule flexibility that comes with it.  But sometimes, we need structure and consistency in order to focus our minds and our actions.  If we think we have all the time in the world to get something done – it may never get done.  Limits drive action; actions drive results.

So, between now and next Monday, decide what you are going to accomplish next week and the hours in which you are going to get it done.  Whether your goal is to get more done or to work fewer hours, establishing an action plan will help.

Once you have an action plan, find an accountability buddy within your network or feel free to use this post. Just write in the comment section what your goals are and when you will achieve them and then let me know at the end of the week how you have done.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Labor Day – Entrepreneur’s Holiday?

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 4, 2007

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I’m writing this post on the train heading into NY. I spent Labor Day weekend at our house on the lake in Connecticut.  I really tried to get into the spirit of Labor Day this year and did my best to refrain from working.  My husband and I went kayaking, and swimming, planted fall flowers and had an “end of summer” picnic with our neighbors.   All in all, a pretty respectable observance of the “working (wo)man’s” holiday.  But I have to admit that my mind repeatedly wandered to challenges in my business, and more than once I picked up my laptop to respond to an email or check my blogstats.

Labor day was originally conceived to give a break to the average worker.  I guess it was assumed that management had enough time off; this one was for the laborer. Work life has changed a lot since 1882; it is no longer as easy to tell when we are working and when we are not; it is also not as easy to tell who is the laborer and who is management, especially in regards to entrepreneurs.

In the 19th century, you were either working, or you weren’t.  In the factory, in the fields, in the store, in the mines  – working; anything else – not.  But in the 21st century, we take our jobs with us – in the forms of Blackberries, Treos, cell phones, pagers, laptops, wi-fi connections and satellite wireless cards.  We can always be making one more call, checking in with one more client  or writing one more article.  We can be reached 24×7, 365 days per year and even more, it’s harder to turn our minds off of the problems and challenges of our “knowledge work” . 

As entrepreneurs, we fall somewhere in the murky realm between laborers and management.  In theory, we are managment, even leaders – as we develop the strategies to design and market our products and services. But in many cases, we are also the laborers – producing the products, packaging the merchandise, fulfilling the orders, making the sales calls, and setting the appointments. 

Many of us have difficulty taking time off – our businesses depend on our efforts, afterall. And for many of us, our work is also our passion, which means that sometimes the thing that feels most fun is actually – more work!

While all work and no play will make Jack a dull boy, it will make Jill a burned out entrepreneur.  As hard as it is, we all  need to take time for ourselves. We need to get away from the constant, everyday demands of our business.  And the irony is that if we do, we’ll return with greater perspective, greater passion, greater creativity and greater energy than if we had continued working straight through.

Most of us have businesses that our great-grandparents would not be able to recognize or understand.  The world has changed dramatically since they first established Labor Day. But their rationale and their wisdom still holds true – every so often, we need to take a day off from our work. What looks like doing nothing – is really doing something.  We are giving ourselves a chance to gain perspective, to re-energize and to refuel. 

How did you spend your Labor Day? Are you able to shut off your business now and then? I’d love to hear your secrets – please share below.

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Pain-free Networking for Shy Women Entrepreneurs

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 2, 2007

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I just learned about a great new social networking site exclusively for women business owners and “business owner wannabes”! It’s called MyWomanOwnedBusiness.com. It’s the brainchild of Kimberly Porrazzo, editor of OC Metro magazine. 

The site is great in that it combines the personalizaition and individual creativity of MySpace with the business networking focus of LinkedIn. The site just launched and membership is growing rapidly.

In her site profile, Kimberly explains her motivation for starting the site:   

I attended meetings of the Orange County chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO; http://www.nawbo-oc.org). I couldn’t help but be impressed by the willingness of women to share ideas about business with each other, even in a competitive situation.

I wanted to create a space where women could come together to ask questions of one another in a nonthreatening atmosphere; a place where like-minded women could ask for advice about a business situation or problem, for suggestions on how to grow their business – and, a place to shout out their successes in order to inspire other women. ”

I especially loved the part about “shouting out our successes in order to inspire other women”!  What a great vision of support.

I am particularly excited for readers of MoreThanWEKnow because I think this site will be a great opportunity for low-risk networking for shy and introverted entrepreneurs who are less comfortable with traditional networking venues.  What’s even better is that the site is intended to help both women who already have a business and women who are considering starting one.

Although in its early stages, it appears that there will be a wide geographic distribution as well as a diversity of business ventures.  This will enable all participants to develop a broader, more varied network. 

As we’ve discussed previously, there are approximately 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States. The potential network that Kimberly’s site is tapping into is huge.

So, jump over to her site, take 5 minutes to set up a profile, and don’t forget to invite me as a friend – I’ll be waiting to hear from you!!  

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Networking Legacy

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 1, 2007

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Yesterday marked the ten year anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.   As many of you remember, Diana was as famous for her shyness as she was for her beauty and grace.  She struggled for years with her feelings of self-consciousness and inadequacy.  It was really only in the final few years of her life that she blossomed into the confident woman that she was.

There is a lesson in Diana’s story for many of us.  In our heads, we play the game of “if only…”  If only I were rich, if only I were beautiful, if only I were famous….then I would be self-confident.  But Diana had all of those things and still struggled with her self-esteem.

It was only as she became more aware of herself and the gifts she brought to the world that she became comfortable in her own skin.  It was only when she realized that her sincere compassion and empathy for others enabled her to touch their hearts, that she grew confident in her interactions.  

In the time following her divorce, Diana realized that she carried her gifts within her, apart from her royal title and trappings.  Despite losing her official place in British royalty, she had gained a permanent position in the world’s hearts as the “People’s Princess.”  Diana used her gift of heart-felt connection to help the world through her involvement with charities and worthwhile causes.  It is impossible to know  how her influence would have grown as she continued to mature into her full sense of her self.

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Like Diana, many of us are unaware of our gifts.  We think we need more credentials, more experience, or more knowledge in order to help others.  But like Diana, we all carry the capacity to influence within us. 

Perhaps our actions won’t touch millions, but we do affect those we come in contact with throughout our days – in our business, in our families and in our communities.  

We do not have to be rich or beautiful or famous to make a difference in the world. We just need to get in touch with our own strengths. We need to share the unique gift of who we are with those who come in contact with us. We need to believe in ourselves and in the difference we can make. 

The next time you go to a networking event in which you feel self-conscious and insecure, consider Diana’s legacy: Believe in who you are; Be willing to share yourself with the world;  Believe that others need what you have to offer; Reach out to touch them with compassion and concern; Give them your best self; Trust that it will be enough. 

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Complaint-Free Networking

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 31, 2007

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Last Saturday, my friend Sarah gave me a purple elastic band, with the words “A Complaint Free World” printed on it.  She said that along with the band came a challenge to refrain from complaining for 21 days (the amount of time it takes to ingrain a new habit).  She said that each time I slipped up and complained, I needed to move the band to my other wrist and start counting the 21 days all over again. 

I eagerly accepted the band because I thought it was a great idea.  I loved the idea of reducing the negative energy and free-floating complaining in the world.  I must admit, I took the band a bit smugly. I put it on my left wrist, confident that it would stay there for the entire 21 days.  I think of myself as a very positive person, who is very grateful for the life I lead. I figured it would be no problem for me to go a mere 3 weeks without complaining.

So, I got the band on Saturday afternoon and put it on my left wrist.

Saturday evening – Going back to my hotel after my coaching class, I had to take a NY subway downtown in suffocating heat. Due to some construction, the express trains were running local and making all the stops.  Moved the band to my right wrist.

Sunday – Took the final exam for my coaching class. What I thought was going to be a two-hour short answer test with a single essay question, turned out to be closer to a two-hour all essay test.  Moved the band back to my left wrist.

Monday – Caught a flight from NY to Phoenix. Sat on the runway for 45 minutes waiting to take off.  I’d already been away from my husband all week when I was in NY and he was in Connecticut; now I was going further away.  Moved the band back to my right wrist.

Tuesday – Discovered the water heater in my apartment in Phoenix was broken. Took a cold shower. Moved the band back to my left wrist.

Wednesday – Despite a note from the maintenance man that he had repaired my water heater, there was still no hot water. Washed my hair in cold water. Moved the band back to my right wrist.

Thursday –  Problems with my laptop caused me to spend 15 minutes searching for a phone number for “customer service” – and then to sit on hold waiting to talk to a human being for another 25 minutes. Moved the band back to my left wrist.

Friday – Catching the red-eye from Phoenix to NY and then taking the first morning  train from Grand Central to Connecticut – might as well go ahead and move the band over to my right wrist now.

So, what did I learn in the first 7 days of my grand experiment?

I could say that this week has been worse than usual, but that wouldn’t be true.  Every week, every day, has incidents that push us to complain.  The truth is that I complain more than I realize; the band just made me more conscious of it.

The problem is that complaining is negative energy.  As we discussed in yesterday’s post, people are attracted to positive energy and repelled by negative energy. So while I may get momentary relief from complaining about my situation, I am actually doing myself more harm than good. The people I am trying to connect with, will actually eventually start to avoid me.

This is important for the would-be networker to realize. While it is important to connect with people with words and passion, those connections should be positive in order to be nurturing and sustainable. 

There are over 2 million purple bands in circulation.  If you would like one of your own, order here. They’re free although they accept donations to cover expenses.  But be forewarned – due to the high demand the bands are taking currently 12 weeks to be delivered.

Once you get the band, see how long it takes you to go 21 straight days without a complaint. Wear your band to your next networking event and use it as an icebreaker. Tell the people you meet about your 21 day project – I’m sure they’ll be interested – but whatever you do –  don’t complain about it!!

What do you think of this project? Would you take the challenge? Or do you think that complaining serves a purpose?

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Network with Passion

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 31, 2007

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I read a fantastic post this morning written by Marilyn Suttle.  Marilyn is an expert in customer service. She co-writes the blog, LoveThemUp.com.  In her post Marilyn tells about a truly terrible day that was turned around by the positive energy exhibited by a waiter at a Big Boy restaurant.  The waiter was so sincerely happy and enthusiastic that it was contagious. Along with their chocolate malts, Marilyn and her husband got an invigorating shot of energy to take back home with them.

I loved this story because it illustrates how energy can be literally transferred from one person to another. 

Stop for a moment and think of a person who makes you feel good just by being around them. If you are drawing a blank, think of the last time you were around a two or three year old child.  Even if the child was a complete stranger in a restaurant or an airport, you were probably drawn to their energy and their delight in the world around them.  This type of sincere enthusiasm is compelling.  We find ourselves thinking that “we want what they’re having”.  

Contrast that feeling to the one we get when someone is pretending to be friendly, as in the stereotype of the “used car salesman”.  Even though he or she acts friendly, we can sense that it is forced and insincere. This contradiction makes us uncomfortable. Instead of being drawn closer, we are repelled.   

What does this mean to us in our networking?

First, it is important to remember that people are drawn not just to what we say, but to how we say it. Our energy speaks volumes before we even say a word.  This can be a challenge for the majority of us who are uncomfortable in networking situations.  If we are feeling anxious, scared, shy or depressed, others will sense that and have a tendency to steer clear. This, of course,  will make us more anxious, scared, shy or depressed, causing them to avoid us even more, and so on, and so on.

So, what is the nervous networker to do?

First, take a deep breath.  Consider that this can actually be good news for those of us who feel tongue-tied in groups.  It means that people will remember less about what you actually said, and more about how you made them feel.    That takes some of the pressure off of “saying the right thing”.

It also means that it is extra important to tap into our positive energy and passion. Even for the most nervous among us, there are ways to do that:

1) Talk about subjects you feel passionate about  – whether it’s the feedback you got from a customer, your belief in how your service can help the world, or the satisfaction you are feeling from knowing you are building a business that really reflects your values, your enthusiasm will come across in your voice and your face.

2) Network while volunteering for a worthwhile cause – again it’s all about the passion and the energy. Don’t get involved in something because you think “you should”.  Get involved in something that you would be interested in doing even if you don’t meet anyone to network with.  And then, remember to speak about it with passion the next time you’re at a more traditional networking event.

3) Network while pursuing your hobby – Whether it is quiliting or kayaking, a book club or a wine tasting, your enthusiasm is going to come through. When you are doing something you enjoy, your confidence and your energy incease.  You will be more open to others and they will be more receptive to you.

Increasing the energy and enthusiasm in your life doesn’t just benefit the people around you. It benefits you!   You will feel more passion and purpose in life, and other people will in turn be more drawn to you, increasing your passion and purpose even more!

Tell me about what you feel passionate about – how do you incorporate opportunities to feel energetic into your daily lives?

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How to Go from Shy Networker to Brilliant Conversationalist

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 29, 2007

732128_72168845.jpg Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, Intl. recently wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com in which he explained why introverts can be great networkers because they are already great listeners.  Now, Dr. Misner is a nationally recognized expert in networking, but I have several issues with the article that he wrote.

First, he does not distinguish between introverts and people who are shy.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, while these two traits can come together, they are not identical.  The tips he gives in his article to help introverts are really aimed at shy individuals.  Many introverts enjoy other people; they just find interactions with them draining.  To be effective, introverts need to remember to pace themselves and find ways to re-energize. 

But what concerns me the most about the article is that it states that introverts are naturally better listeners than extroverts because they have a tendency to be quiet. What this doesn’t take into consideration is the noise going on inside either the shy or introverted person’s head.  While sitting quietly, and appearing to listen, the shy person may really be thinking:

“…everyone here is dressed better than I am..I wonder where she got that suit…maybe I should have worn a suit….I never wear the right thing….what is she talking about now?….uh oh, I wonder if she is going to expect me to respond?….I don’t know what to say…maybe if I keep nodding my head she will keep talking….I wonder if I look like a bobble head with my head nodding…..”

while an equally quiet introverted person might be thinking,

“I wonder when I can leave….I’ve been here for 45 minutes I think…I wish I could see my watch…but if I look, she’ll know I’m not paying attention….hey that guy’s wearing a watch….maybe I can see it out of the corner of my eye…..hey, great! 52 minutes….by the time I go to the bathroom and get my coat, it will be one hour since I got here….that’s long enough…I wonder if I have to find the hostess to say good-bye or if I can just slip out….”

So, as you can see, silence is not always golden. It is, as Dr. Misner pointed out, the first step in effective listening. But to really be effective at listening, it helps to know the following:

1) Don’t feel pressured to say something brilliant in response.  Most people are starved for attention. If you will actually concentrate on what they are saying instead of listening to the noise going on in your head, they will sense your interest and enjoy talking to you.

2) Express yourself without words.  Facial expressions, head nods, encouraging murmurs (“hmmm”, “I see”, “wow”, “really!”, etc.) enable you to participate in the conversation without actually having to say anything.

3) Ask open-ended questions.  This sounds harder than it is.  It helps to ask questions that start with “what” or “how”.  Avoid asking questions that can be answered with one word, especially if that word is “yes” or “no”.  For example, it’s much better to ask “What was your favorite experience  in Mexico?” rather than “Did you enjoy your trip to Mexico?” 

By bundling these three techniques together, the shy person can carry on quite a long conversation without the pressure of being witty or funny.  And as Dr. Misner points out, the smart networker can use these conversations to learn much more about the prospective customer than their more talkative companions.

By really listening to what the other person has to say, you can identify their goals, their challenges and their motivations and determine ways that you and your product or service can help them with their needs. When you do decide it’s time to speak, your conversation will be tailored to them and their concerns – and they will think you brilliant!!

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Situational Shyness and the Aspiring Entrepreneur

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 27, 2007

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Last night I went to a graduation dinner for iPEC, the institutue for Professional Empowerment Coaching. Approximately 20 of us had been part of an intense program of advanced coaching studies for the past 6 months.  There was much laughing, hugging and even a little crying. We warmly congratulated each other on our success, affectionately kidded each other on past mistakes, and proudly encouraged each other on future opportunities. 

As we chatted during the evening, some people expressed surprise that I had been writing articles on networking for shy entrepreneurs.  They commented that I did not “seem shy”.   This got me thinking about some of the common misconceptions about shyness that can lead to misunderstandings and lost opportunities.

While it’s true that some people are pervasively shy, feeling awkward and self-conscious in almost every interaction, most people fall somewhere short of this extreme.  For many people, shyness is based on their comfort with a situation, a role,  and the people around them.  The more comfortable they feel –  the less shy they act.  Over time, the unfamiliarity fades and the shyness becomes less apparent or even disappears. This was the situation between my classmates and me. Apparently some of them had forgotten how quiet I had been in the early classes and were only looking at the talkative person I had become.

Shyness is a protective device. We are protecting ourselves from the danger of the unknownSituational Shyness can be triggered by meeting new people, having a new job, and taking on a new role.  This is why people can be outgoing with friends but shy with strangers.  It is also why some people can be confident presenting in front of a group of strangers but tongue-tied making small-talk to a circle of acquaintances.  

While this behavior can seem clear and consistent to the shy person, it can seem confusing and inconsistent to the people around her. Instead of assuming that the quietness is based on shyness – they may assume it is rudeness, coldness or a deliberate snub.  Their reasoning is that if they’ve seen that person act friendly in the past, they don’t believe that they can be feeling shy now.

The outcome then can be misunderstandings and lost opportunities for friendships and partnership.

So what is the aspiring entrepreneur with situational shyness to do?

By changing the way you talk to yourself and to others, you can give yourself the time you need to regain your self-confidence and eliminate your need for self-protection

When you find yourself in a situation that brings out your shyness, such as a networking event, reduce your need for self-protection by changing the way you talk to yourself:   

  •  “Most people are feeling uncomfortable”
  •  “Everyone says something wrong sometimes”
  •  “Mistakes are not fatal”
  • “No one else is paying as much attention to my behavior as I am”  

And when you talk to others, change the way you explain your behavior

Don’t label yourself as shy, instead identify the situation as one that triggers shyness in you. 

If you say “I’m just shy” in response to their questions about why you are quiet, and they have seen you acting self-confident before, you will only get an argument because you don’t fit their idea of shyness. 

“No – you’re not shy! I’ve seen you giving presentations!”

“You can’t be shy! You have a great sense of humor!”

Instead, say “This situation makes me feel shy” or “I get tongue-tied in front of new people.”  They can’t argue with that and it will increase their awareness of the way shyness can come and go.  It may help them realize that your behavior doesn’t mean you are unfriendly or rude or lack anything intelligent to say –  it just means you need a little more time to regain your self-confidence and sense of self.

Many people avoid networking events because they are one of the top situations that trigger our shyness.   Instead of avoiding the events altogether, give yourself some time to adjust, and some freedom to be yourself. 

Instead of attending a different networking event every week, find one you want to attend and go consistently and regularly. Over time, the situation will become more familiar and less threatening and your need for the protection of shyness will fade.  Once you feel comfortable in one networking organization, the next one will seem less intimidating, and the one after that even less so, and so on, and so on.

I was fortunate that the iPEC classes were spread over a period of months so that I had time to become more comfortable in the situation.  You can create the same kind of fortune in your networking by building in the time you need to let go of your shyness and share your best self.

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