As an introvert with anxiety, the ability to work from home has been a godsend. There’s no elevator small talk. Meetings are accomplished over text and email. The phone stays off, and my mind stays steady.
It may sound reclusive, but the truth is I do work better this way, because I’m not anxious about making a good impression. The computer doesn’t judge, and I don’t have to second-guess anything but the words on my screen.
There are times, however, when venturing out into the business world is unavoidable. When that happens, there are a few things that I’ve found can help take the edge off.
Before the Meeting:
Research. Use LinkedIn to look up those you’ll be meeting with. Not only can you get a better feel for their background, you can also find out what they look like, which may help ease the anxiety of meeting them in person for the first time.
Write it down. One of the worst parts of social anxiety, I feel, is that my brain tends to go blank during conversations. Knowing in advance what you need to discuss — and seeing it on the paper in front of you — can help keep things on track.
Dress the part. This might not be the best time to try out a new look. Rather, keep it simple, work appropriate, and most of all, well within your comfort zone.
The Day of the Meeting:
Do something special. Small comforts can make a big difference: a cup of your favorite tea, a new book, a cuddle with your cat — anything that takes you out of your mind (and your worries).
Remember. Think of something that makes you laugh, and take a minute to fall into that feeling. Then walk through the doors with a genuine smile on your face.
In the Meeting:
Take notes. Jot down the main points of what’s being discussed while continuing to pay attention to the speaker. This gives your hands something to do and can help you stay focused on what’s happening in the moment.
When in doubt, say so. Don’t be afraid to use the phrase “I don’t know,” followed by “I’ll research that and get back to you.” It’s better than panicking for a few minutes, searching for an answer.
Apologize. We’ve all probably said or done things in a moment of anxiety that made us cringe. I personally tend to cut people off — not because I’m a rude person, but because I’m nervous and trying to compensate by showing my understanding of the topic. I think the best thing to do when you make a mistake is say, “I’m sorry.” Then sit back, take a breath and listen.
After the Meeting:
Be gracious. When the meeting is over, make eye contact with those around you and say, “Thank you for meeting with me.” Everyone is busy, and recognition of that fact is most often appreciated.
Finally, let it go. When you’re driving home and all your brain wants to do is replay every single second of the experience, don’t. Turn on some music, roll down the windows, and let it go.
I know, easier said than done. But try to remember that with every experience (no matter how nerve-wracking) comes knowledge — knowledge we can use the next time we have to venture out into the big, bad world.
Image via Thinkstock.
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