As you may know, I did an AMA session with HEED yesterday about how to treat and grow your blog like a business. Let me first start off by saying THANK YOU to all of you who could join, participate and involve yourself in advancing your careers. I had a blast answering all your brilliant questions, and it gave me a ton of insight into topics you guys like to explore!
The Blogging Career Dilemma
In the midst of all the blogging career advice and questions, I had a participant in the AMA ask me the following.
“I’m a shy person wanting to grow my blog. What advice do you have about me networking?”
She identified an inherent characteristic in her that might be preventing her from reaching her blog’s full potential. And, rightly so, she doesn’t want this to be the thing that stops her from growing.
“I can totally relate. I have severe social anxiety. So, when I first started, I tried to make one or two friends that I knew I ran into often at events. Before any networking events, I would always ask if anyone would be there from the blogger group. It created somewhat of a relief to go to an event as a result. The thing is, it’s really hard, but a lot of it is just practice. I still get extremely nervous going to events and places with networking opportunities. I learned just to be concise and have a quick pitch of what I do, be focused, and have a glass of wine.”
We were on a time limit. Otherwise, I would’ve expanded the answer. So, this is where having a blog is handy! If one person asks the question, it most likely means that more people have a similar concern.
Social Life, Interrupted
Despite what it may seem like, I have a really hard time functioning in social situations. I freeze up and stumble through phrases. Random words pop into my head that might not fit the overall theme of the conversation. I try to keep things coherent, but I sometimes ramble. In short, I get a little lost on my journey in trying to relate to others.
It gets tough to attend events and present yourself as a professional when all you want to do it drink an entire bottle of wine and hide under a table. That is if you ever make it to the event. (I’ll take Netflix and chill over a bustling soiree any day.)
I don’t want to give you the standard spiel where I tell you how I’m an awkward kid and this and that, because I think a lot of us creatives are “awkward” at the end of the day. There’s a bit of solace and solidarity in that, but it’s still hard to know just how much someone else feels like an outsider. Are they really as nervous or as shy as you?
A Case Study
There’s not of a way to measure it, but sometimes it helps to explore the topic more with people. Let’s take this AMA for example.
I spent the first hour in the HEED office sitting with my excellent AMA facilitator who read a question to me, gave me time to think and answer, and then typed in the response. I can do this sort of interaction all day.
Now, the second part crept up on me as we closed up the online forum: Facebook Live interview.
My anxiety started to act up right as we wrapped up the AMA portion (behind the screen). I could feel little prickles and pangs in my stomach. I started to breathe a little quicker and wonder what in the world I would say. Would I ramble? The chair was kind of high, I hope I don’t fall off. What about my extremely wrinkly shirt? Would anyone take me seriously? OH MY GOD. WHAT IF NOBODY EVEN WATCHES IT!?
It was the end of the world, and I wasn’t even in front of the camera yet.
Now here’s what helped: Alithea, the lovely interviewer with HEED, told me she gets incredibly anxious about this portion too. We spoke about our common fears, and suddenly I felt like I had a friend in the process. It was now us against the (Facebook fashion community) world!
Having a friend there who understands the specifics of the anxiety is incredibly helpful. It gives you a little bit of a confidence boost and mitigates the pressure. At the end of the day, carrying a boulder is much easier when there’s some help. Y’know? Both of you understand that each of you doesn’t have the expectation of perfection. As a result, that’s one less person to worry about in front of.
If you can’t tell yet from the video, it starts off with me being incredibly awkward and looking all around the room. Why? I don’t know. I was feeling nervous. As we continued, it became easier to compose myself and stare at the camera, though that still felt weird because that’s not what I’m used to doing.
Which Brings Me To My Second Point
To reduce the stress and anxiety in social/speaking/networking situations, you need to practice! You might want to start off in a small group or with small steps. Make small talk with someone outside of your industry and outside of a social networking event.
Get used to navigating small talk. Explore some conversation starter games (yes, they exist) to prompt you in building your conversational skills.
Also, observe how others navigate social situations. I found that I was rushing myself through things. I speak to fill “awkward” silence when I’m nervous. Then I started paying attention to how Obama handles his press conferences: with LOTS of pauses.
I’m a far cry from President Obama, but I took away a very important point. I need to SLOW down, think, and deliver my answers without rushing through. That allows me to breathe and to signal that I’m being thoughtful about my conversation with the other person. This seems like a small step, but it was very helpful for me!