I am profoundly shy, strongly introverted and have some social anxiety.

I find socialising with strangers in social settings to be extremely stressful: socialising in professional settings – such as networking events, trade shows, meeting around the coffee machine – even more so.

As I'm freelance, this has had an impact on my career.

Are there any tactics you have found useful when attending networking events etc., so you can maximise the benefits of attending, without triggering stressors?

  • 3
    'without triggering stressors'... what are the typical stressors in such an event for you? Are you struggling with making the first contact, or having a succesful talk after saying hi (for example)... we can probably help you better if you focus on one of the things you're struggling with for this question, if there's more situations/steps you're struggling with, it might be better to split them into separate questions...
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jun 15 '18 at 12:11
  • 1
    Also, take a look at these two questions, they might help you a little already: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/4012/1599 and interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/14555/1599. Besides that, they may give you an idea about how to narrow down this question a little more
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jun 15 '18 at 12:11
  • “Stressors” include all the things you’ve mentioned, and the desire to flee, fleeing, guilt for not making a good impression, overanalysing conversations negatively, and generally feeling uncomfortable that stress and anxiety levels rise, making all of those worsen, which causes stress to rise and so the circle continues. Jun 15 '18 at 13:07
  • Thanks for the links. I’ll read them over. Jun 15 '18 at 13:08
  • 1
    Ai... all those stressors sound pretty intrapersonal instead of them being caused by something interpersonal you're struggling with, although I do understand they have a big influence on the interpersonal interactions you're having too... We can help you navigate those interpersonal interactions, but the list of settings you provided is pretty broad (maybe limit it to one)... and if you could add a description (maybe a script?) of how such an interaction usually goes for you, that would be useful information as well...
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jun 15 '18 at 13:13

You can approach this problem in two ways:

1) Dealing with the situation at hand

2) Seeking long-term solution - if your social anxiety has a profound impact on your life it should be dealt with with the help of a professional therapist.

I assume 2) is out of the question or perhaps you are already working on it. So some techniques to help in first case:

1) Concentrate on maintaining a straight posture, with your hands relaxed on your sides (don't fiddle)

2) Concentrate on listening and maintaining relaxed eye contact, don't speak too much if it feel forced, but ask questions and smile and nod to acknowledge your counterparty

3) Be prepared for a few standard question (like "What have you been up to recently?", "Which events have you attended so far?", etc)

4) If you feel like you are getting stressed, excuse yourself with a smile and go to the restroom or fetch a glass of water

5) If stressed and cannot excuse yourself (because you are in the queue waiting for example), change subject to discuss your counterparty as much as possible taking the focus off of yourself.

  • 2
    Nat, can you provide some back up for these suggestions?
    – Spagirl
    Jun 15 '18 at 14:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.