When I was envisioning our wedding a year ago I decided to keep the bridal party simple and have my two sisters stand up there with me. I’d made a mental list of the important women in my life and realized that I could either have 15 bridesmaids or 2. There really wasn’t much in between. So I went with 2.
Investing in and maintaining close, meaningful friendships is at the core of my being. I have friends who I met before either of us were potty trained. I recently cancelled a speaking gig and lost a boat load of money because it was so important to me to witness a girlfriend of 10 years get married. It was money well worth losing.
Given my proclivity to making and keeping friends, I get asked about building a network a lot. People say, “You’re so social and you seem to know everyone. You make friends so easily. How do you do that?”
When I tell them the truth, they’re usually surprised.
I have social anxiety.
No, it’s not diagnosed or anything. But it’s real.
I would so rather speak in front of thousands of people than go to a cocktail party where I don’t know anyone. The idea of going to a wedding where I only know either the bride or groom and I don’t have a date gives me palpitations.
I was nervous about talking to waiters and waitresses, let alone striking up a conversation out of the blue with a random bystander. I started my network marketing business at the tender age of 18 I realized that I would need to learn to talk to strangers in order to be successful.
I really wanted to build my business. My dream of creating financial freedom by the age of 30 so that I could stay home with my kids one day and live abundantly was ripe.
I knew I needed to do something about my fear.
I started going to a counselor who specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT.) We would sit in her chintzy living room and I would go through probably half a box of tissues per session, at least.
We role-played. She gave me assignments each week.
Advice From The Queen Of Questions Herself
She recommended a book to me that totally changed my life: How To Talk To Practically Anyone About Practically Anything by Barbara Walters.
(It’s out of print and relatively expensive to get a copy but well worth it.)
Here’s what I learned from Barbara Walters that helped me move through my social anxiety and build my treasured community (I much prefer that word to network):
- Remember that everyone is human. No matter if you’re a foreign dignitary, a Fortune 100 CEO, a billionaire entrepreneur, a stay-at-home mom, or a plumber, everyone is human and everyone is struggling with something and is excited about something.
- Be genuinely interested in the humans around you and find out what they’re excited about and what they’re struggling with.
- Ask about things that have nothing to do with their career. Often people in leadership or high profile positions spend all day thinking and talking about work. A great conversation about their little girl’s ballet recital can be so refreshing and disarming.
- Connect with your heart. I’m genuinely enchanted by people’s stories about their kids and how they first met/fell in love with their significant other. These are my go-to topics because my heart opens when I ask about them and usually the person I’m talking to’s heart pops wide open when they start talking about them.
Bringing It Home With Gretchen Rubin
A few years ago I was at SXSW. I was one month into The Freedom Tour, had been blogging less than a year, and ran into Gretchen Rubin at a party. I’d read her book The Happiness Project in one sitting on a plane to France because I found it so delightful and engrossing.
I was star struck. I was totally nervous to be talking with a NY Times Bestselling author and super successful blogger.
So I remembered Barbara and started asking Gretchen about her kids. Before I knew it, I’d forgotten that I was talking with a celebrity.
Gretchen began telling me about her wacky and wonderful obsession with miniature things. She described these whimsical little dioramas of rooms, cityscapes and other scenes that she’d created within her kitchen and bathroom cabinets. (I’ve since learned that she’s written and shared about this extensively but at the time, it was completely news to me.) I was completely bewitched by the idea of going to grab a handful of almonds and being greeted by a tiny world living on a shelf inside the cabinet.
I have no idea if Gretchen remembers the conversation or me, but that’s not the point.
The point is this:
Your genuine interest in another human is one of the greatest gifts you have to give. Give it. (Click to tweet)
When you strip off your own layers of pretense and ask people real questions about their real life as a human being, you create connection.
Connection is the greatest intangible currency we have. It’s what we live for. And it’s within our power to create it whether we’re checking out at the supermarket or interacting with senior executives during the biggest meeting of our lives.
If you ever experience social anxiety remember this: everyone is human. Start there and you’ll do great.
Do you ever experience social anxiety? What have you done to get over it that’s worked for you? I’d love to hear your tips and I know everyone else would too! Please leave a comment below.