A few years ago I attended a business networking function in a city where I did not know many people. It would have been nice if people had approached me and introduced themselves, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not going to happen. If I wanted to meet people–if I wanted to start a conversation, I had to take the initiative. I later talked to man named Larry who was a regular with this group. I told him that I found it interesting that although people were friendly, I had to be the one to approach them first. He commented, “Yes, that’s the way this group is; we don’t step into your world, but we welcome you into ours.”
When you are the leader of a team, group, or organization, people expect you to go first–to take the initiative with others. However, sometimes you need to take the initiative even when you’re not the leader…and sometimes you need to do it even when you’re the guest or new person…and even when it feels scary.
One of my clients shared with me an experience with her coworkers on the first day on her new job. She lamented, “when I was in the break room they didn’t even speak to me or try to get to know me.” I asked her why she didn’t go ahead and just introduce herself to them, and she said, “Because I’m the new person. They should be the ones to go first.” The result? No conversation happened.
If you want to be seen as a confident communicator, don’t wait for others to go first. Others will view you as confident, and an added bonus is that although it first feels scary, you will likely get an internal surge of confidence afterwards, as well.