How to overcome your fear of networking events

Anxious, thoughtful businesswoman

You’ve bought a new business and you’re raring to go out there and tell everyone about it!

But networking events terrify you. What do you do?

Overcoming this type of fear is a common challenge facing therapists.  In the past the most popular treatment was behavioural therapy, which systematically and repeatedly exposes the client to the very thing they fear. 

More recently the focus has been on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which encourages the client to challenge irrational thinking at the same time as engaging in behavioural exposure. 

Now, experienced therapists have been combining CBT with acceptance-based approaches, such as Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). 

I believe that one of the most powerful psychological tools anyone can develop is learning to accept uncomfortable feelings; most people go through life resisting or avoiding them. 

Acceptance is based on an awareness that anxiety is a normal response to fearful thoughts and, most importantly, is completely harmless

Not wanting to feel whatever we’re feeling, trying not to feel it, or hoping it doesn’t get worse are all forms of resistance.  Not doing something that makes us anxious is an example of avoidance.

Accepting uncomfortable feelings just means accepting them as long as they’re there, rather than accepting that it’s OK for them to remain. 

Modern therapists now train clients to accept anxiety, then do what they’re afraid of, and keep doing it until the problem is resolved. Acceptance is based on an awareness that anxiety is a normal response to fearful thoughts and, most importantly, is completely harmless. 

Learning to accept uncomfortable feelings has many benefits:

  1. It enables us to be less distressed by the feeling
  2. Acceptance always diminishes uncomfortable feelings
  3. Accepting an uncomfortable feeling makes it easier to do the thing we’re afraid of, which is the key to resolving the problem

By avoiding the things we’re fearful of we will always reinforce the programming that’s driving the fear.  

By contrast, we unwind the programming that’s driving the feelings by doing things we’re fearful of, while accepting the fear.

Acceptance-Action Therapy says: “Accept the feeling, choose the action”. If we want to resolve a feeling pattern, the action we choose should always be the opposite of whatever the feeling is telling us to do. 

So, if we’re anxious about networking we need to accept the feeling and start networking.  The very act of going out of our way to speak to others at a networking event, whether or not we initially have good experiences, will immediately start to undermine the unconscious beliefs that are driving the anxiety. 

‘Accept the feeling, choose the action’, is a powerful adage to live our lives by. It can be used to break through reticence, procrastination, fear of failure or any other self-limitation.

Price encourages all his clients to use it in every area of their lives where they are limited by uncomfortable feelings. The more we use it the more powerful we become. 

 

2 comments about this article

comment by Brian Gregory
I have always found that the best way to overcome fears especially in networking events is to ave confidence in what you are about to do. Never stand up, or even enter a networking meeting, without knowing what you are going to say. Write down some bullet points to ensure that you don't go off track and end up confused. With this to support you there is time to consentrate on what you want to say. There are many points that help to make it easier and some are in a free book at <a href="http://www.setupandgrow.co.uk/business-networking-report-pdf" rel="nofollow">http://www.setupandgrow.co.uk/business-networking-report-pdf</a> So good advice on a small but important area of this subject.
comment by Irina Avanta
A compelling look into those who have a fear of networking and what to do to battle this. Every entrepreneur and small business owner knows how important a strong network is, and we have some tips of our own: <a href="http://www.avanta.co.uk/news/article/crack-code-successful-networking" rel="nofollow">http://www.avanta.co.uk/news/article/crack-code-successful-networking</a>

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