Shyness is one of those qualities that can stand in the way of your success. If you consider yourself shy, you’re far from alone. Meeting new people is the second biggest social fear (public speaking, of course, is number one). So how do you learn to overcome shyness? The same way you learn other skills – practice.

So if you want to deal with shyness, simply practice starting conversations with people. Yes, you could go to a business networking event which is the easiest place to learn how to start a conversation. But if you can’t get to such an event, all you need to do is be somewhere where there will be other people. So how do you start a conversation, here’s a few simple ways:

1. Make eye contact.

At networking events, this is typically all it takes to let someone know you’re interested in talking with them. But no matter where you are, you can practice this – as long as you’re not creepy about it and look like you’re staring into their soul.

Just try to make quick eye contact (two seconds or less). If the person looks away, they might be shy so try it again a few minutes later. If they’re interested in talking, then they’ll acknowledge you by this point. Otherwise, move on to someone else.

2. Smile.

Smiling is a great way to come across as approachable. Again, at networking events it can get the conversation started. In other situations, it’ll let the other person know that you’re up for chatting if they’re interested. If the other person smiles back, you’ve successfully paved the way to begin a conversation.

3. Waving.

A simple wave (there are several variants that mean “hello”) has an effect similar to smiling. It also has the advantage of motion – which attracts the eye’s attention and can be seen from further away. A smaller gesture is preferred to outstretched arms that look like their waving down a small aircraft.

4. Saying “hi.”

This is sometimes the second hardest two letter word to say in the English language (“no” being the first). It’s a great way to get someone’s attention if they’re not looking at you and in most cases, makes them feel obligated to say something back.

Getting their attention is the first step. You can’t talk to someone without them realizing that you’re trying to talk with them. Tomorrow, we’ll finish off this list with some things to say to get a real conversation started.

Networking Success: 10 Ways to Strike Up a Conversation – Part 1
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