Attack Social Anxiety at Work, and Scary Office Networking

Attack Social Anxiety at Work, and Scary Office Networking

I love life, people, and new experiences. However, I also have my socially awkward moments, and feelings of inadequacy. I’m not unique, and I’m not alone. However, it is how we handle those negative feelings that set us apart from those who remain frozen in fear

The majority of us have at least one type of social situation that causes us nervousness or anxiety:

  • Lead meetings and presentations.
  • Cold calls.
  • Connecting on a personal level.
  • Work events.
  • Interviews and walking into a new job.

Sometimes it can help to have an extra push to proceed and progress.

About 20 years ago I read an article in a Readers Digest magazine that had a great impact on me. The article, “Throw Your Hat Over the Fence”, enlightened me how to face my fears of accomplishing something new and/or difficult.

  • You want to get to the other side of a tall fence.
  • You are concerned, hesitant, and maybe even a little scared.
  • Suddenly, you take your hat off, and throw it over the fence.
  • Now, the only way you can get it back is to take action.
  • Climb the large hurdle in front of you.

I find social situations at work, exciting and energizing. However, on some occasions I still get a case of the jitters.

Throughout my career I’ve given countless presentations, led teams, and planned large events. I’ve attended countless conferences, trade shows, and networking events. But, like many people across all demographics, and levels of office hierarchy, I can find myself nervous in certain situations.

In those anxiety provoking instances, I have applied a range of coping mechanisms. One, of those techniques is to “throw my hat over the fence”. I take a few deep breaths, smile, put on a brave face, and then decide to be mindful about what is ahead of me. I choose to do something that will motivate me to “jump” over an obstacle rather than “drag” myself through it.

Presentation Anxiety? Be First!

Be the first to present a plan or an idea. Sign up, speak up, and be first. Once you’ve started the ball in motion, you can’t drag your feet. You look eager, and that is half the battle.

I realize that saying be first might sound contradictory. However, presenting in the middle or at the end just allows your brain to ruminate over your fear. Give it less time to stress. Go first.

Cold Call Anxiety? Push Buttons & Repeat Exposure!

Why sit at your desk trying to drag yourself through a cold call. Send introduction emails, and push the buttons on your phone. Once you have started the call, your only option is to talk to the person on the other end. 

Of course preparation is key – research, plan, and practice. But even with all the pre-work, you can spend forever looking at the phone before making that first call. Really, an important part of the process is diving in.

As well,  repeat exposures to anxiety provoking stimuli means that you are facing fears instead using unhealthy coping mechanisms – such as avoidance. The more you practice and expose yourself to stressful cold calls, the more you have the opportunity to free yourself from those uncomfortable emotions.

Office Networking Anxiety? Stop and Ask!

Many of us get so busy and wrapped up in the work day that sometimes we forget to network AT work. Even more frustrating, is that sometimes we forget HOW to connect on a personal level!

One answer to this problem, is to stop and ask. Stop at a colleague’s cubicle, office and/or work station. Ask questions to get to know the people you work with. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it can significantly impact your work culture in a positive way.

Making real and personal connections are important because we are living human beings and we spend a lot of time at work. When we ignore authentic relationships we are also pushing away an important part of what gives us satisfaction during our work day. The consequence is that there can be a negative impact on our quality of work, and a decline in the commitment we have to our customers and employer. Nothing positive evolves from being the invisible worker-bee secluded in any workspace.

Meeting Anxiety? Hit Send!

You are not alone if you stress over leading certain types of meetings, or difficult conversations. However, the feelings will just become stronger if you procrastinate, postpone, and drag your feet. Type the email invite, and hit send. The wheels are in motion. You’ve thrown “your hat over the fence”.

You may need to accomplish many other hurdles before the event actually happens (plan what to say, deliver the message), but the only way to get there is to take the first step.

Invitation Anxiety? Argue and Accept!

There is definitely something to be said for someone knowing what is beyond their capabilities. That is very different than someone being capable, but undermining what they are worth.

If invitations are not accepted because you are selling yourself short, then you may want to consider “throwing your hat over the fence”.

  1. Have an argument with yourself. For each negative thought, counter with a rebuttal. Highlight evidence where you have been successful in experiences that make you a perfect fit for the situation.
  2. Accept the invitation to the team project, interview, job offer, and/or work event.

Remember that by declining invitations:

  • You really don’t know what opportunities you have thrown away.
  • You are missing out, and people are missing out on you.
  • Invitations may stop coming to you.

Final Words

There are many social situations where we can become frozen with fear, which can result in personal stagnation.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded that all it takes is one mindful step forward. It could be as simple as putting your shoes on in the morning, or it could be the act of accepting a position for a multi-million dollar company.

We all need to start somewhere. Where will you start?


If you liked this blog, you may want to check out:

6 Ways I Learned to Like People that I Don’t Like, and Build Relationships
How I Stopped Sucking at Networking
How to Participate in a Twitter Chat

Need a little more inspiration? Get Pam’s eBook: How Social Media is Changing Business… and what to do about it. It’s free for email subscribers – and don’t worry, we promise not to spam your inbox!

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