Social Anxiety and Networking

A few weeks ago, I attended my first social networking meeting in many years.  I was inwardly uncomfortable from the second I arrived.  Though I concealed it fairly well, my inward awkwardness prevented me from taking advantage of a host of opportunities that presented themselves.

I did speak with many people, mainly because they approached me, however I was unable to initiate conversation myself.  I collected several business cards and only realize a week later that I hadn’t followed up on any of the contacts.  I had been so impressed by having taken the action to drive to another city and mingle with strangers that I thought I had accomplished my mission.  But my mission was to gather clients for my consulting business and in that I failed.

During the gathering, which took place in an upscale bar, a place I would never choose to be on my own, there was time allocated for the more aggressive business people to introduce themselves to the group.  I forced myself to be one of the people who was called on to speak.  I saw myself, incredulously, leaning against the bar, introducing myself and discussing my business.  As my mind began to cloud over, I forgot half of what I should have said about the benefits of my practice. My attempt at humor was feeble, and may well a been misunderstood by many, but surprisingly I didn’t care.

In retrospect, I still don’t care whether they thought I was a rebel or a clown.  These people meant nothing to me, they were strangers, extras in the movie of my life.  What I care about is my own failure to take that opportunity, post speaking, to converse with the people who expressed an interest in my services.  All I wanted to do was to withdraw an escape.  I was spent.  There was nothing left to draw on.  I just wanted to go home, and after sequestering myself in a corner of the bar as I suck down my third or fourth Cola, I did just that.

Today there was a scheduled network meeting at lunchtime in a bar in my own town.  I knew I should attend.  I woke myself up early enough so that I could make the meeting.  Instead I chose to work on my websites.  Working on my sites is important, however considering the urgency of my finances, acquiring new clients was certainly a higher priority.  I chose to avoid a situation that was uncomfortable and rationalized the decision.

I will be productive today.  I will work in solitude until I drop, but I know that the thing I really should have done, was to attend that meeting and seek out an immediate income source. I know I didn’t because I would find the situation unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

There’s an ancient parable where the spiritual master encounters his disciple furiously searching in the grass and asks: “What are you doing?”  “Master I lost the keys to the temple.”  “Where did you lose them?”  Asked the Master.

“Well”, said the student,  “I’m pretty sure I lost them in the temple but there’s so much more light out here.”

 

 

2 comments

  1. Personally I am quite sociable but I choose my “companions” very carefully. I discourage people joining me or seeking my company by being somewhat aloof (civil but strange) and I am otherwise in favor of a degree of “social intercourse”. Being alone allows me to think, write and enjoy tranquility. I am 88 years of age and am not particularly interested in “small talk”. If that makes me a recluse, social misfit, so be it.

    M.B.

  2. Thank you for your insight, I am so glad I found your website. As an introvert with social anxiety I am finding it difficult to network. My company recently made cuts and now I have to find another position or fulfill my dream of entrepreneurship. While I did not network often, it was not as difficult as it is now that I absolutely have to do it.

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