Over at the Fast Track blog, we received the following question:
My manager knows that I want to become a manager myself at some point, and is working on mentoring me in the skills I’ll need. One piece of feedback he’s given me is that I need to become more comfortable in semi-social situations (networking lunches or event dinners, and the like). I’m not a terribly social person by nature, so I tend to feel a bit shy and out-of-place in situations like that. I’ve decided the career I want is worth it, but do you have any advice for a fellow introvert who needs to learn to be more social?
Here's my answer: As an introvert myself who has been in the same situation and feels your pain, I’d recommend looking at the managerial (i.e. more social) job as a role you are playing, one in which you are a bit more self-confident, outgoing and talkative. Practice your overtures and responses with trusted family and friends, just as you might rehearse lines with them if you were in a play, and then gradually try out new approaches with your colleagues.
Don’t overload your schedule with too many events at the beginning as the goal is to expose yourself to a fearful situation over time so that it becomes less intimidating. As an introvert, it will probably help you to have time to prepare, so ask for as much notice as possible when you are expected to attend a function. Find out exactly who you are meeting, what you’ll be doing, and how long you’ll likely stay.
At the event, if you feel yourself fading, take a few short breaks to get some fresh air, or just chill out by yourself. Recognize too that these types of social interactions are naturally more energy-depleting for introverts, so allow yourself time later that day or the next time to replenish your reserves. We all have areas to develop, and good for you for identifying yours and acting on your manager’s suggestions.The best leaders are devoted to continuous self-improvement, so you are well on your way.
For advice from three other fabulous experts, check out the full post at Fast Track.