Those who know me would be totally surprised to learn that in my youth I was PAINFULLY shy. Painfully. And especially when we’d moved away my elementary/junior high year then returned mid way through my freshman year of high school. Kids I’d grown up with were different. We’d missed that code of communication about socializing. One crush who happened to be a neighbor invited me to a party, but it wasn’t an Ozzie and Harriet kind of invitation so I didn’t go. Word was getting around that I was stuck up! I was beyond miserable by my sophomore year.
One day I came home just crying. Nobody had talked to me that day. I heard the rumor about being stuck up. I hated going to school. So my mom asked me what did I do, when I walked through the halls? She made me demonstrate and I was so annoyed. I grabbed my books, head down, started moping forward. With the authority of a gym teacher she told me to lift my head up, stand up straight, and look people in the eye. Then she coached me to be the first one to say “hi”. I was doubtful this seemingly simple advice was going to work.
But at school I tried it. Holy cow-it worked! Other kids actually smiled at me. They said hello back. Seniors I didn’t even dare talk to said hello. I kept at it. I didn’t become the most popular girl in school by any means. But I had friends across classes and a circle of dozens of close friends. I could hang with some of the jocks, the stoners, the farmers, the chess geeks or the theater peeps.
And I still can. In a business setting I am very comfortable networking, whether in a chamber of commerce mixer with a traditional male approach or in an eWomen Network setting where the philosophy of “give first, share always” takes a different path. Building business is about building relationships. And every relationship starts with the first hello. Be the first hello. Bet your mom will be proud of you.