Shyness: The Career Killer

“I’m shy so I just listen in meetings.” “I avoid all speaking situations, so few people know my name.” “I do a good job. It’s just that few people are aware of it.” If any of these sound like you, face it. You’re shy!

In reality, most business professionals are shy. Surprised? Yes, others seem outgoing, are verbally strong at meetings, have executive presence at every occasion. However, most of these people, from low-level employees to the CEO, were once reticent. In fact, many still are. They overcome their shyness with a “professional self.”

That “professional self” is an extension of their real self, brought about by effort, practice, determination and training. To begin developing your professional self, try some of the techniques below:

Prepare. Before a meeting, look at the agenda and prepare statements relevant to several issues. Rather than writing those out like a college student preparing to read a speech in class, list two or three bullets. If fear generates a moment of panic, the notes keep you from forgetting the points you want to make.

Script. Standing in front of your co-workers to give a presentation? Prepare in the same way. Write out the first line to get you going. Bullet point each statement and prepare a strong closing line. Getting on and off the “stage” with strength are what audiences remember.

Talk up. Before a meeting or discussion, practice making your statements out loud. Don’t memorize or everyone will realize it. When you speak, turn up the volume so it is loud enough for everyone to hear. Now make eye contact with at everyone in the room. Work for self-confidence, even if you’re faking it at first. Once you have your initial success, the “fake” confidence will become more and more real.

Role play. Ask a friend, spouse or relative (no, not the family dog) to trial run a one-on-one meeting with a superior about a new idea, the annual review, announcing a possible new initiative, etc. Work with the other person until you are comfortable with your “professional voice.”

Making this leap, battling shyness, can be a monumental task. Look for a trained professional who understands shyness, and can help guide you to success. This person may be a psychologist ready to explore why you’re shy. Or opt for someone who will work with you to overcome your shyness, helping you act “as if” until it becomes more natural.

Isn’t it time to tame your shyness beast? For more clues on improving your communications skills, contact us.

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