I was really impressed last Thursday, when I gave my "Interpersonal Skills for Introverts" presentation at the NY Public Library of Science, Business and Industry. The 75 introverts who showed up were not nearly as shy as I thought they’d be.
I had been warned in advance to be extra sensitive and not force any interaction (which is one of the hallmarks of the workshops I give) so I was trying to think of ways to make it more comfortable for them to participate. I started off by getting them to raise their hands if they identified with one of the comments or ideas I was describing or if they fit into a particular category. They did that quite enthusiastically. Then others started asking questions (a couple even stood up to ask!) At the point in the session when I talked about the 10-word blurb and explained what an incredible opportunity it is to be able to tell 75 people what you do, 4 brave ones stood up and said theirs to the group, including one of my particularly shy clients. I was so proud!
When it was time for the "how to make a connection" exercise (which means talking for 5 long minutes to the stranger sitting next to them), they got going and I couldn’t get them to stop!
One attendee followed up the next day and thanked me for the "party." And it’s true there was a party feeling in the room by the end of the session. Several of them found resources they were looking for; others learned something new about someone else’s business.
In the end, I didn’t need to be so sensitive and I realized that shyness is relative. Some people are more shy than others. Also, it really depends on the situation, which is basically the premise of my book, Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive.