30th January 2017: Day 11 - Social Networking

Most people that know me well tend to be surprised when I tell them I’m shy. They forget what I was like when they first met me. They forget that I was probably scary and unapproachable, they forget that I probably answered their questions and small talk in monosyllables and they forget that I didn’t ask them any questions. That’s because they either met me and got to know me in a work environment or in a very small group where I know maybe one other person.  I don’t generally enjoy going to places that I don’t know many people, especially parties. I do go to parties but I will tend to stand to one side praying no one comes to make small talk and somehow I will click with one person (maybe we’re introduced), we’ll have a really good conversation and then, after about an hour, I take myself off home. Going to conferences was a nightmare for me. I could spend the whole day not talking to anyone. During the breaks I would rush out of the room, ostensibly to make an important phone call but it would either be to my sister or my cousin.

It isn’t always the case, though. I can be okay if I know a few people at the place or do. I’m okay if I have a specific role e.g. if my organisation or close friend/family member has organised the gathering and I’m okay if I am the host. I have got better as the years have gone by but not too much. Funnily I’m okay speaking in front of a room of people.

Today I went to a workshop on wealth. This is definitely one of the occasions that I stand in a corner not looking at anyone, not catching anyone’s eye busy ‘reading emails’ on my phone. So I set myself a challenge to talk to at least 5 people and get at least 5 business cards. I spoke to 7 people. The very first person was in the ladies’ toilet when I first arrived. I walked in, she was standing at the sink and she beamed at me.

‘Hello,’ she said.

‘Hello,’ said I.

’39 Steps,’ she said.

I didn’t understand what she meant. Was it a code for something? Is she a spy and did she think I was her contact? So many possibilities but I didn’t really want to find out, especially not in the toilet, (even though I always wanted to be a spy but I'm too scared of being tortured) and I ran for the nearest empty stall.

The next two people were a bit like I usually am and didn’t seem in the mood for conversation. The two after that  were very friendly and within 5 minutes we were exchanging contact details. It was one of those times that the conversation flows easily and small talk very quickly becomes interesting and meaningful. I won’t tell you what we discussed because I didn’t get their permission but we connected enough to want to sit together during the workshop.  The trainer didn’t do any exercises with us so we didn’t get a chance to circulate and talk to other participants but that was okay.  At the end of the workshop one of the women talked about a problem she had and we were able to advise and support her around possible solutions. We said our goodbyes and I went to the toilet (again) and when I came out I saw they were still there talking to another two women so I joined them and introduced myself (who is this woman!!!) and it turned out one of them was able to help our friend. So in total I spoke to 4 people and got all their contact details (I forgot I needed to get 5).

I don’t know where this shyness comes from. Both my parents were friendly and engaging as are my brothers and sisters. I just seem to get a bit tongue tied and unsure of myself and what to say. Actually, that’s not true. I just like to observe, see the lie of the land before diving in because once I dive I’m in there, so make the most of my quietness because once I start talking you can’t shut me up.

One of my intentions for this year is to be more outgoing. I really enjoyed meeting those women today and it showed me the power of what’s possible if we get out of our own way. What delights have I’ve missed out on by huddling away in the corner. Today I came out of my shell – who knew that was possible – and I enjoyed it. So maybe next time I’ll aim to meet 10 new people then 20 then, who knows?

What would you like to try differently? Do you think it’s too late for you?

Why not give it a go anyway?


Taiwo Dayo-Payne