It can be difficult to know the difference between having social anxiety and being awkward, introverted, or shy. The American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines social anxiety as “a persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations” that involve being “exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.”
Modern life provides us with constant opportunities to be scrutinized by others, and while few among us wouldn’t be nervous about giving a work presentation or a speech at a wedding, an ongoing fear of saying the wrong thing in casual conversations can become problematic. Conversation anxiety, though not itself a disorder, is an aspect of social anxiety that can make dates, parties, and mixers anywhere from mildly stressful to intolerable.
Whether it’s attending startup events, social gatherings, or happy hours, networking is a necessary part of every entrepreneur’s life. Seventy-eight percent of entrepreneurs agree that networking is crucial to startup success, which is why there are a myriad of articles online about how to master and love the art of networking.
But networking can be extremely draining. Imagine the countless hours entrepreneurs spend talking, traveling, and socializing with contacts and potential investors. Excessive social interaction can be physically and mentally exhausting for anyone — even extroverts. In fact, many of the founders I coach describe networking as draining, saying it sometimes robs them of the energy they need to work on actual business operations. Read more…
Not long ago, after interviewing a venture capitalist onstage, I announced to the audience that we would take questions but no pitches. The first person at the microphone asked the investor to fund his start-up. I cringed as the second person started to pitch, too. Our educational event had quickly turned into a bad episode of “Shark Tank.”
The following week, at a similar event, I saw a student ask a C.E.O. for her personal email address in front of the crowd. I’ve been stunned by the lengths people will go to at tech and business conferences to make a connection with a big name: sneaking backstage for a selfie, slipping business cards into briefcases, chasing them out the exit.
If the very thought of networking makes you throw up in your mouth, you’re not alone. Networking makes us feel dirty — to the point that one study found that people rate soap and toothpaste 19 percent more positively after imagining themselves angling to make professional contacts at a cocktail party. Just reading that research made me want to take a shower.
Yet we’ve all been warned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Success is supposed to come to the suave schmoozers and social butterflies.
It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network. Read more…