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Ask Dan
Q.
I have to network at trade shows, but I'm very shy. How can I overcome my shyness and schmooze more effectively?

A.
Often, shy people in a social gathering focus more on their own emotional states than those of the people around them. By concentrating too much on their inward emotions, they end up fixated on their fears, anxieties, and perceived shortcomings that keep them unable to connect with others.

A key to dealing with shyness, then, is to redirect your attention and give it nothing to latch on to. To do that, try these two simple steps the next time you're on a trade show floor, or at related events.

First, whenever you engage in conversation, always ask open-ended questions that must be answered with a response other than a "yes" or "no," such as "How did you end up at company XYZ?" Next, when the other person responds, offer feedback that reinforces your interest in him or her. Feedback could include eye contact, the occasional head nod, and an intermittent "That's very interesting." These will encourage others to expound more, which in turn takes the burden off you to be "on" in some sense that many shy people find crippling.

People love to tell you about themselves, and if you focus on finding their stories, you'll see your shyness giving way to curiosity, opening you to even deeper connections with others you may not have thought possible. That's schmooze you can use.E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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