on July 17, 2007
Are you shy, or are you outgoing? Either way, I think you will want to read Ilise Benun's book, Stop Pushing Me Around!: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy, And Less Assertive (Career Press, 2006, 220 pages). I am far from shy. (In fact I can sometimes be a bit too much for some people.) And yet I found huge value in this book. Each of us has shy moments, and those moments are what this book is for.
Benun devotes a chapter to the power of curiosity in overcoming shyness. Among other things, she suggests the following exercise, one that I find particularly powerful (quoted from pages 45-46).
"First, prepare yourself for slight discomfort. Then begin a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you do. Instead of listening for what you have in common, your task is to listen for anything different, anything that surprises you. Stop the voice of judgment or opinion. Just listen. Notice when words are used that you don't understand. If a question comes to mind, ask it. If not, just keep listening. At the end of the conversation, notice whether the discomfort stayed the same throughout or whether it subsided at any point. Notice whether you learned anything new."
Could you do that? I bet you could. And imagine how special the other person will feel when you try this.
The meat of the book is in the seven chapters covering specific situations:
Networking: How to do it even if you are terribly shy, goals for networking, what to bring to an event.
One-on-one conversations: Talking about what you do (see below), starting conversations, telling stories, following-up.
Phone calls: When to call (versus sending email),
preparing to call, making the call.
Body language: Awareness and control of your own body language.
On-line tools: When and how to use e-mail, including great suggestions for writing so that the message will actually be read, how to use instant-messaging, and a brief bit about social networking. [The only gap I found in the book was on blogs. Although Benun mentions them in a subheading (p. 136) she doesn't tell us anything about how blogs can help the shy communicate with the world.]
Selling techniques: Selling strategy, cold calls, overcoming objections, asking for the sale.
Managing shy people: Helping them contribute, giving feedback, interviewing them.
Highlights for me
*Many, if not most of you understand the need to craft a short "elevator speech" to explain to folks what it is that you do. Ilise takes that concept and turbo-charges it, helping us craft ten different versions, each with its own use. She shows us how to write a version Mom would understand, for example, and one for a stranger you see in the doctor's office. Very cool ideas here (and some homework for me).
*Benun gives us templates to help us tell compelling stories about ourselves. For example, she shows us how to construct the story of one of our top achievements.
*Her selling techniques for shy salespeople look like techniques almost all of us could use to improve our approach. We all need to answer objections ("you're too expensive," "we don't have the budget"), shy or not. Ilise gives us tools to do that.
Benun's book is a fast read and a useful read. I've got it on the bookshelf next to my desk, as I expect to turn to it often. My bet is that you will too.
Ilise Benun's book starts out provocatively. She suggests, you can change your disposition from shy to assertive that by concentrating on your actions instead of your feelings. She provides lots of exercises for increasing your awareness of your emotional reactions and habits. She also offers advice on how to overcome shyness in a multitude of situations: sales presentations, networking events, job interviews and general office run-ins. Unfortunately, the book lacks depth in some areas. For instance, certainly there is a lot to be said for telling stories in your work life, but if you're shy, spinning a tale confidently seems like an advanced challenge. However, her core advice on how to stretch your abilities beyond your "comfort zone" is solid and actionable. For that achievement, getAbstract recommends her useful guide for making contact in business scenarios, despite your qualms.
on August 4, 2013
I teach business communication at UCLA's Extension School. While people sign up for the course for numerous reasons, hands-down the #1 reason is that they want to know how to be more assertive in dealing with pushy colleagues and unfair bosses. And for most, the stumbling block is the issue of shyness, which masks itself as "politeness." When I'm asked for reference works, I turn to Benun's book. It's concise and written in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand style. She's straightforward and practical. This is the primer for anyone determined to overcome their fear of speaking on their own behalf!