What is “Social Phobia”?

Do you dread the thought of going to that business networking event? Or how about a friends party on Saturday…are you worried about attending because you won’t know anyone there? If this sounds all too familiar, then you’re not alone. 

It's natural to feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy in front of others at times. For some people though, they can’t just push through these feelings; they have a (increasing more common) condition called social phobia.

It is estimated that around three per cent of the Australian population experience social phobia in any one year - up to 13 per cent of the population may develop social phobia during their lifetime.

Time and time again clients of mine share intimate thoughts and feelings with me around the challenges they’ve faced in the past at both business and social engagements.  And one very common one bought up in our conversation is the issue of walking into “that” room.

Other common events that can cause fear or avoidance and affect your ability to network in a range of situations include:

  • Crowds and parties.
  • Public speaking.
  • Starting or having a conversation.
  • Talking to a large group.
  • Voicing opinions.
  • Meeting someone new, shaking hands.
  • Talking with someone who is in a position of seniority or authority.
  • Being watched while doing something, such as eating, signing papers or talking on the telephone.
  • Situations that put them in the spotlight, such as parties to celebrate their own birthday.

Unfortunately a socially anxious person can't relax, ‘take it easy’ and enjoy themselves in public. It is important to differentiate that this only relates to social or public situations, as these same people are often fine when with family and close friends.

Treatment options include cognitive behaviour therapy, social skills training, relaxation and medication. Professor Ron Rapee at the centre for emotional health at Macquarie University recommends getting people gradually exposed to the things they are afraid of "It's what's referred to in the trade as exposure - " he says.

I have always said that networking is a learnt skill but didn’t realise the degree to which many people are hindered by this phobia.

If this sounds like you, maybe we can help? According to the hundreds of people we have trained to network over the years, a networking strategy gives you the practical skills that help increase your confidence to network. With practice, that confidence turns to comfort. We certainly help you with the emotional side along with learning practical behavioural techniques.

As you know, recently I presented at Kochie’s Business Builders Boot Camp, my talk was right before the celebration dinner and my goal was to help people get more out of the night.

The next day, I was interviewed and the particular focus was on shy networkers. Whilst I didn’t discuss social phobia’s, I did give some tips to help overcome shyness when networking.

For those interested, here is an Interview by Suzi Dafnis from the Australian Businesswomen's Network

Change your thoughts and you change your world.
— Norman Peale

Here are some more practical tips to help make that experience of walking into “that” room one to look forward to rather than dread;.

  • Visualise the room/familiarise yourself with it
  • Instil some positive reinforcement. Get yourself into the right state of mind beforehand
  • Take time out to think about your personal qualities beforehand and be proud of them

Remember: everyone at the event wants to network.

Networking (that works for you) is a very rewarding activity. Please let us know if we can help you to enjoy the experience and get better results.

Remember to attend either Create or Manage Net[work]s with us over the next few weeks to take your networking to the next level.

As always, get in touch to chat further
Happy Netships!

PS - Are you coming to one of our courses or cocktail nights soon? See website for details...

Posted on May 24, 2011 .