I am talking about something that I know all too well in this episode: feeling awkward in social settings. I’m specifically talking about holiday parties and networking events for those of us who are socially anxious and who find social events stressful and nerve-wracking. You’re not alone! I’ve found some things that help me not just survive but actually enjoy networking and parties and I’m sharing those with you.
Some of you, like my spouse, are socially at ease in any situation. You can make chit-chat and strike up casual conversations without any worry at all. So this may all sound foreign to you. But if you’re one of those people who find social networking easy, hopefully, this episode will give you more insight into what some of your friends and colleagues are going through.
The strategies I use to help myself through parties and events have a lot to do with preparation. I think one of the biggest things that causes social anxiety is the fear of not knowing what to say. We walk into the room and are nervous about having anything to talk about and just feel overwhelmed. I actually prepare conversation topics in advance. It might sound strange, but being prepared takes some of the anxiety away. I have a lot of advice and tips to share and I want this episode to make all of you who are socially awkward feel less alone, and to give you tools to make it through the holidays less stressed.
06:18 Creating a strategy around chit-chat and how to try it out
08:37 An easy way to prepare for a party with friends
10:24 How to prepare for a networking event
- You can gamify your networking goals to make it more fun
- Set yourself an end time, you’re allowed to know in advance when you want to leave
- Watch alcohol intake
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor:
Kari Lotzien: [00:00:01] Welcome to Be the Anchor, the podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach, Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life get stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us, to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. If you are a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur, whether you have an idea, big or small, that you think might just make the world a little bit better, kinder, gentler place, you are in the right spot, my friend. We are going to talk about everything from big ideas to mindset and strategy, and sometimes just how to get through the day. I don’t want you to miss an episode, so be sure to follow and subscribe to the podcast so that we can stay connected and keep doing this journey of life together. Thanks so much.
Kari Lotzien: [00:01:10] I’m so glad you’re here. Today I want to talk about holiday parties and networking for those of you who are socially anxious or just feel awkward in social settings. This is me. I can tell you that I get stressed when I need to go to a holiday party or something that sounds like it’s supposed to be fun for other people. For me, it causes me a lot of stress and I get really nervous. I don’t know what I’m going to talk about. And if that’s you, I wanted to do this episode, number one, so you know that you’re not alone, that there is not all of these people out in the world that love to connect with other people and that we are somehow outsiders. I think there’s a lot of us. And the more people that I’ve talked to about this, the more I have people opening up to me that they feel the same way I do. So I wanted to have this, like side conversation with you to give you maybe some ideas on how I have coped. I am not an expert at all in this area, but I feel like maybe I’ve got some things that might be helpful for you too.
Kari Lotzien: [00:02:20] Now, I think, like many of us who feel socially anxious or awkward, somehow we connect with partners that are outgoing and sociable and that these things come naturally to them. At least, that’s how it is in my life. My partner, my spouse, I don’t know if he was born with it, but he is amazing when it comes to connecting with people, striking up light conversation. He knows how to blend a great story and add a little humor. I feel like I am missing that part of my brain. I tend to be a little more serious, a little more rigid, and I feel like I can’t pull off this casual ‘How’s the weather’ type conversation. Now, if you want to tell me about your deepest challenges or your biggest dreams, or the most exciting vacation you ever went on, if you want to talk to me about how worried you are about your kids, I am all there for it. Having deep conversations is much, much easier for me than this more light-hearted chit-chat. I don’t know why that is.
Kari Lotzien: [00:03:35] A lot of people are really surprised when they hear how much anxiety I have in a social situation because they’re like, Kari, you have a podcast, you do a lot of speaking engagements, you speak on stages all over the place. Yeah, I do. But I think a part of it, and why I really enjoy it is because when I do these episodes or I’m speaking on stages, I know what we’re going to talk about. I can rehearse the topics and the ideas and the conversation, and therefore it reduces my anxiety because it’s really predictable. Even on guest episodes, I have a pretty good idea what we’re going to talk about before we start talking. In my coaching, I love really deep diving with people and being that safe place. I think that is my superpower. But social, where there’s a lot of people in a group and we’re supposed to be having a good time and there’s no agenda of what we’re going to talk about, oh my goodness, that that I find really overwhelming. And maybe you do too.
Kari Lotzien: [00:04:45] So I want to acknowledge that this is not just impacting me in places where there are perfect strangers. I can actually strike up a conversation more easily with a perfect stranger than I can with an acquaintance. And I think it’s because with a stranger, they have no expectation of me, I have no expectation of them, and I can choose whether or not I want to talk to them. So sitting beside a perfect stranger on a plane, or standing in a grocery store line-up and striking up a conversation with the person behind me, that I can do some of the time if I’m in the right, the right state of mind, it works. But I think with strangers, because there’s not as much expectation, it feels a little bit easier and it typically isn’t going to last as long on a flight. I’ll really think about if I’m going to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me, and when I’m going to do it based on how long the flight is, because I don’t want to be stuck in a conversation for hours with someone that I happen to be sitting right beside when I can’t predict it. So if it’s a long flight, I often won’t strike up a conversation with someone until the last like 15-20 minutes of the flight. It feels safer.
Kari Lotzien: [00:06:09] If it’s a one-hour flight, I’m more likely to open that door or make just a casual comment way earlier in the flight. I create strategy around how I’m going to chit-chat. If it’s a grocery store line-up, I likely know I’m only going to be with this person for five minutes so I can kind of try out my new content with how to create chit-chat in an easier way. So I might talk about the weather. I might talk about the price of food. I might talk about, you know, random things, and I kind of try out my content on those people and just see how it responds. And then I kind of prepare it for when I’m in new situations where I’m in a networking meeting or I’m at a holiday party, or I’m at a gathering with a group of people that I’m supposed to be connecting with. Now I’ve kind of got some pre-rehearsed content that I’ve tried out on the people in the grocery store line-up that I can now apply to my situation. Now, that might sound completely crazy to you, and if it does, you’re probably someone more like my husband than like me. And if you’re one of those people, you’re probably just going to listen to this and be like, this sounds insane. But it might also help you to understand your partner, your spouse, your friends who don’t have this magical thing that you have. So maybe continue to listen or come back to the next episode.
[00:07:26] Okay my friends, we are well in the season of gift-giving. And if you know of someone who’s a small business owner in your life and you want to get them the perfect thing that you know will be so valued and appreciated and it’ll just make them feel cared for, click on the link in the show notes. I’ve put together a guide of my favorite gift ideas for small business owners, and there is everything from absolutely free to a lot of options that are less than the price of a gift basket with lotions and candles. But it’s really what people want. If you are a business owner, and maybe you just need some ideas of ways that people could support you, this might give you some good ideas of what to ask for. I’m sending you so much love this holiday season. Click on the link in the show notes. I’ll send you the list. Back to the show.
Kari Lotzien: [00:07:26] Okay. Now, other things that I do when I’m having to be in a group situation with friends or acquaintances, I research. So again, like this might sound crazy and and I’m okay with it because it might help someone, and seriously, we need to be in this together. I will go back and I’ll look through their social media. So if it’s friends, I’ll go back through their social media and I’ll think of like 2 or 3 things that are going on in their life. So if they’ve taken a trip or maybe one of their kids has had an exciting thing happen in their lives, or I know what they might be interested in, I will put notes in my phone. I put the person’s name, and then I’ll put like 2 or 3 points of things that are happening in their lives that I’ve seen on social media that I can then use when I’m more anxious and I can’t think of what to say. I’ll sneak off, I’ll go to the washroom, and I’ll have a quick look at my phone and be like, okay, these are the three things that I can talk to that person about. And then I don’t sound so crazy. Because before what would happen is I would go in unprepared and then I wouldn’t know what to talk about and it would seem awkward.
Kari Lotzien: [00:09:28] So then I would either talk too much about what was going on in my life, and I’d get nervous and try to hold the conversation, or I would end up with these, like, kind of open-ended questions that felt a little bit shallow or disconnected with the other person. And then I would get home after the event and when my anxiety was lower, I’d be like, oh my gosh, I should have asked them about this situation, or I should have asked them how their mom was doing, I heard she was sick, or I should have made a comment about that big vacation that they went on, or that big promotion that they just celebrated at work. And then I would feel like a jerk, because it would seem like I didn’t show up in a way that I cared. And this just helps me to kind of remind myself of what’s going on in people’s lives so that my anxiety doesn’t take over. And then I have, my brain is a blank. So. Sounds weird. Might work.
Kari Lotzien: [00:10:24] If it’s more of like a networking event where I don’t necessarily know the other people as well, like on a friend basis, then I will actually go on to their website. I’ll go on to their social media platforms in their business, and I do the same thing. I won’t research every single person that’s going to be in there, but I will have a target. So if there’s 1 or 2 people that I’m wanting to meet, or I’m sincerely wanting to learn more about what they do or their business or whatever that is, I will actually go and I’ll make a list again in the notes app in my phone, because I will have it with me. And it would be weird to bring out like a notebook of my ideas of what I can talk about in a social setting. So I don’t want to look strange, but I do want to have this with me. I’ll just make a few notes of who I want to talk with. And here’s the cool thing about it, if you make the note and you write the person’s name down and their business name, and then a couple of ideas you want to talk about, even if you don’t look at your phone, even if you don’t even look at that list, it will actually help you to remember their name and help you to be more prepared when you’re in the moment so your anxiety doesn’t just completely take over. It also helps to focus your attention, because another strange thing that would sometimes happen with me is I would go into an environment and I just feel overwhelmed by the number of people in the room. So I can hear all of these people, I can see all of these people, but I actually might not recognize people that I kind of know that I might be comfortable talking to, or that I want to talk to because I get a little bit more overwhelmed.
Kari Lotzien: [00:12:00] So this way, if I, sometimes I’ll actually even put a screenshot or a picture in their off their social media so that I recognize their face, and then I can start to do some pre-work by learning that face and that name and putting them together. Because how many times have you been in a situation where someone introduces you to another person and the name isn’t even out of their mouths yet, and you’ve forgotten it already? You feel like you look like you’re not caring or not listening. Not the case. So you can do a little bit of pre-work like flashcards by looking at the picture and pairing the name with it, and then putting that into an app or into your, even your notes app on your phone, so that you can create that visual image of connection and then have a couple of topics to talk about. Then when you get introduced, your brain goes, oh yeah, yeah, we remember that person and it will connect the ideas more easily for you as you then start to strike up a conversation. So you’re not relying on that in the moment, trying to think of something to say. You’ve kind of pre-prepared it in your own mind. Now, if you feel like this sounds like not very personable and not very natural and caring, I can tell you in my own life when I do this, it actually allows me to be the caring, compassionate human that I really want to be, and it allows me to show up in a more natural way. I get just really weird and awkward, and I can’t remember what to say when I don’t have these tools and strategies to help kind of prep me along the way. So maybe that helps for you too.
Kari Lotzien: [00:13:34] Now I will also game-ify it, so I will make a little scorecard almost, to help me like remind that meeting new people and making new connections does not have to be awful, it can be fun. And so I will make myself a little like scorecard or a little cheat sheet to say, okay, find one other person who enjoys hiking or camping. Find one person who could recommend a great virtual assistant. Find one person and hear what they like to do over the holidays, or if they’re traveling outside of the country. And then once I’ve met those three things, then I’m done. Then I can go home. So this is the other big thing is so often we go to these networking events and we don’t know how long we have to stay. And when we feel awkward, especially at the beginning, you might have only been there four minutes and you’re thinking, okay, when can I leave? When will be a natural time when I can actually get out of here? Give yourself a little bit of a scorecard, make it a little bit fun, and then once you’ve hit those goals that you set for that event, even if it’s family holidays, once you’ve had your three conversations, you’ve talked to so-and-so about their kid going off to university, you’ve talked to someone about their promotion at work, and you’ve, you know, connected with one of the kids in the group, and now you can leave.
Kari Lotzien: [00:15:05] Give yourself permission to not stay until the very end, until you’re overwhelmed and you’re tired and you’re exhausted. So you can set a time limit as well. Like you can just give yourself permission that you’re going to leave at 9:00, and you don’t have to make an excuse that you’re not feeling well. You don’t have to say that you have a headache. Just simply thank the host so much for having you and then you peace out. Setting an end time will help your mind know that this isn’t going to go on forever, and it’s not something that you’re just tolerating, but that you actually have a time that it will end. I can also tell you that I know hosts who question, can I put an end time on my event? Can I put an end time on my party because I don’t like when people stay until midnight, then I’m exhausted and I still want to clean up and I don’t feel well the next day. And I always say to people, clear is kind. So if you tell the host, oh, I’m so grateful that you invited me, you know, I’ll be able to stop in, but I need to leave by 9, I hope that’s okay. Right? So you just kind of put it out there.
Kari Lotzien: [00:16:15] But even as the host, you can put an end time on your event. You can say that it is from 5:00 until 9:00 pm, or it is from 7 until midnight, whatever that is, when you know that there’s an end in mind, now it’s just that clear is kind. It puts borders on the expectations and it’ll allow you to feel more comfortable. So whether you’re a guest or a host, you can do that.
Kari Lotzien: [00:16:40] Here’s the other big one. And again from experience, eat before you go and eat something substantial. Here’s why. So you might find yourself thinking, oh, there’s going to be snacks there, I don’t need to eat, I’ll just eat when I get there. But then if you’re anxious, you might find a) you either eat and eat and eat because it’s a way that you’re doing something with your hands and you’re occupying yourself, but then you eat way more than you wanted to, or you eat things that just don’t make you feel good. I do that. Or you don’t eat enough and you find yourself maybe when you get feeling socially anxious, you might feel nauseous and it just doesn’t quite feel right. So then you don’t eat enough. Now your anxiety actually increases because your body is also giving off hunger signals like, hey, how come you didn’t feed me? Combine that with the social anxiety you’re feeling and the whole thing just feels more awkward. So eat before you go.
Kari Lotzien: [00:17:41] Which then connects to the next one: be really conscious of your alcohol intake. Again, sometimes when we feel anxious, if you’re the type of person that will naturally stand beside the food counter and just be popping things in your mouth because… Another topic, but eating actually can help regulate your nervous system. It actually makes you feel more calm. So we might do this naturally to try and calm our nervous system, but sometimes people will also do the same thing, you have a drink in your hand, and when we’re feeling a little bit more anxious, you might just notice that you’re taking more drinks than you typically would. And the next thing you know, your social anxiety goes down because you might now be feeling the effects of the alcohol in your system. The anxiety goes down but now you might act or say or do things that are not really in alignment with the image that you want to portray in that environment. So protect yourself from yourself and know in advance that maybe you’re going to consciously take one alcoholic drink, and then you’re going to make sure that you follow it up with water or something that is a non-alcoholic beverage, so that you know that you’re not accidentally impairing yourself as you’re going through this thing.
Kari Lotzien: [00:19:04] And be cautious too, because there are times where that just the impact of alcohol in our system, it lowers our social anxiety, and we also want to, I think, be cautious and careful that we’re not using that to then build a bridge for us to feel more comfortable with other people, because then that can become a crutch that we’re starting to explore on a more regular basis when we need to be with other people. And without any judgment at all, it’s something that I often hear my clients talking about, that alcohol is often a part of social events, it’s part of networking events, it’s part of holiday things, and they are a little bit anxious just about that, that they don’t want to drink too much, or they’re concerned that it is starting to become a crutch. So I just want to acknowledge that with you, that just be aware of it. Just be aware as you move through.
Kari Lotzien: [00:20:04] So networking for holiday success for the socially awkward like myself. We don’t want to avoid. We know, we’ve heard that we need to be engaging with people. We want to be making those connections both in our business and in our lives. This is what creates the life that you love. It is being with people who are like-minded, who are kind, and by staying at home or avoiding those situations, we don’t get the experience and the reminder that most often people are good. And most often when you go back and you look at that event that you might have been nervous to go to, or you might have been a little bit unsure, you will notice most of the time that it actually was better than you thought it was going to be. Your brain is trying to protect you from new situations by thinking of all the catastrophic things that could happen and how awful it will be, and by just sealing up a bookend to go, actually, that was better than I thought. And the little strategies and tips that I’ve shared with you have helped me to feel more confident in those social situations, especially when I’m with acquaintances or people that I don’t see as often so that I can show up in a way that I feel more like myself, I’m more conscious of the image that I want to present, and it is so much more likely that the next morning or after the event is over, that I will have that little voice in my head that goes, huh, that was better than I thought, and I do feel a little bit better. I feel a little bit closer to other people. I am making those connections. I’m building that community because that’s what we all want to do. I think that’s what the world is about, is creating community and connections. Some of us just might need a little bit more support in how we do that.
Kari Lotzien: [00:21:59] All right, I want to finish this episode. We are coming up to year end. For a lot of us who have end of fiscal year, year ends. And I want to share one of my favorite things with you. As I close up, I’m going to be sharing more and more of these things throughout the podcast, I want to talk about QuickBooks Online. I was introduced to QuickBooks Online by my bookkeeper, because I am one of those people that has great intentions to make sure that my expenses are uploaded, to make sure that I keep track of my receipts so that the world is easier when I take it to my bookkeeper, but I inevitably would end up at year end with a pile of receipts in Ziploc bags and shoe boxes that are crumpled up. Half of them are missing, and I would always feel guilty when I took them to the bookkeeper and dumped this all on her. And she introduced me to QuickBooks online, which has an app, and now I can take a quick photo of my receipts and upload them through my app when I’m at the restaurant, when I’m at that event, when I’ve made that purchase for office supplies, it’s so much quicker and easier, and the reports that I’m able to generate are actually in terms that I understand.
Kari Lotzien: [00:23:12] So I am a better business owner. My books are more accurate and more close to real time, so that I can get a pulse on my business and how we’re actually doing. I wanted to share that with you. Check out QuickBooks Online, especially if you’re coming up to year end and you’re having that feeling of, oh gosh, I should have been better at this. I had the best intentions. Maybe next year you set yourself up to be really successful and get on those things so you can have a closer vision of how your business is doing.
Kari Lotzien: [00:23:43] Thanks so much for being here. If you haven’t liked and subscribed to the podcast yet, you know how to do it. Whatever platform you’re on, go click on those three little dots and make sure you follow. Even better, if you know someone who is feeling socially awkward in those networking events in those holiday parties this season, take a screenshot or share this episode with them and let them know they’re not alone. We can do this together and make those connections and build community. We’ll see you next week.
Kari Lotzien: [00:24:16] Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.