Monday, November 05, 2007

Shyness

I presented the Ripple to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers this past weekend in Philadelphia. It was a fun group and despite the early hour on a Saturday morning still managed to have some incredible energy and enthusiasm for what I had to say and show them. They really embraced the concept and despite some initial trepidation in the uniqueness of the format (after all it was a room full of very smart and engineers who are used to being in control), Rippled their way to some fantastic connections. Based on the incredible feedback I received at the end of my presentation it continues to prove the Ripple works in any environment, for any audience and at any hour!

One question that came up as people left the session was worth sharing. A young man from Boeing approached me and asked me how to overcome being really, really shy. It was a great question and one that, believe it or not, I struggle with myself. You see, I am very shy myself and always have been.

Fortunately for me I learned fairly early in my adult life that shyness was a crutch and that crutch could turn into a full blow disability if I didn’t do something about it. I realized that being a shy kid was sort of cute and got me noticed but as I grew up and became an adult my shyness was no longer getting me noticed, it was getting me ignored. Bottom line I knew if I was ever going to achieve anything in life I had to overcome my shyness and get out there and announce to the world “I am here and you want to know me!”

My advice to this young man was simple: do something….anything to get an upper-hand on his shyness. For him to make the right kinds of connections and get himself noticed it is critical for him to take proactive steps to battling this very large but beatable beast. I suggested he force himself to look for opportunities to practice overcoming his shyness by getting to know the people he works with better. Work is a perfect test laboratory for us all to try getting better at engaging and connecting. I told him to start by saying “hi” to people that he wouldn’t ordinarily engage in conversation. Start small and start looking for those connection points by asking good engagement questions. The more he learns about the people he works with the easier it will be to engage them in ongoing future conversation. This simple act of saying something, anything to people he sees but doesn’t know well, will help him gain confidence and become more comfortable and yes….less shy.

I am no pop psychologist and in fact I can honestly say that I write and speak about what I know and what has worked for me; it might not work for everyone. But as I told this young man, shyness could have kept me as a lonely little insignificant worker bee but I refused to let it define me. Because I overcame my shyness I have managed to accomplish so much more in life and actually play in the game rather than watch it from the sidelines.

I hope that young man is walking the halls of Boeing this morning and deciding to get into the game as well.

1 comment:

Carlon Haas said...

I know all about shyness. The only way I broke out of my shyness was living in a foreign country and learning to speak a foreign language.
Shyness hampered my survival, so I had to chuck it. Most people don't have that luxury. But a funny thing was I still considered myself shy long after everyone else did.

I guess it's all in how you see yourself.