How to build a network when you are a shy and introverted expat

Whether to get out of isolation or to find work, expats cannot do without building or developing a local network to find advice, comfort or a professional contacts.
Here is what I learned and put into practice during my 13 years of expatriation in German-speaking Switzerland, being myself a “warm and supportive but also introverted person… »

1- Adopt the right attitude

Positive mindset is key
You may know this old Amerindian legend:
A grandfather tells his grandson the story of two wolves fighting each other. “On one side there was a manipulative, envious, angry, aggressive and threatening black wolf, on the other side an open, fair, joyful, supportive and fraternal white wolf.” The grandfather continues
You see, each human being has these two wolves in him.
Each of us has a black wolf and a white wolf in him that never stop fighting each other.
The child thinks and asks him/her:
“And which one wins? »
So the old man answers him gently:
The one who wins,……… is the one you feed. »

So the more you nourish your positive thoughts, the stronger they become. As you know, Neurosciences have demonstrated that our subconscious mind can create new thoughts that will in turn generate new beliefs. So why not use positive thoughts and energy to positively influence your behavior and that of others? This requires motivation, but the results will be commensurate with the effort.

Repeat positive and short sentences often to reprogram your brain.

For instance, write a positive statement, like “Love is everywhere” or ” Everything is always working out for me” on the home screen of your smartphone or anything else you use frequently.Be grateful. Look within.

Accept yourself as you are, you have nothing to change.

In this world of appearances where many believe that they have to spread a perfect image of themselves, it is not fashionable to display their vulnerability and imperfections. If those are easier to hide on an Instagram or Facebook picture, whether you like it or not,  your behavior in real life says a lot about your inner state. Others perceive your right angles, the positive ones as the least advantageous sometimes even though you have not yet opened your mouth. So why bother trying to be someone else?

To be authentic is to accept that no one is perfect, including yourself. And that’s fine. Unless you fall into vulgarity, rudeness or disrespect, being yourself will put your interlocutor at ease because unconsciously and by mirror reaction, he will also give himself permission to be so. It’s more pleasant, isn’t it?

Accepting your vulnerability and approaching it with humour may be a good way out. I admit that there are steps to take and you may not yet be ready to release a crazy video of yourself on social media but start small and your self-confidence will grow.

Remember one thing: to make quality contacts or new friendships, you must first be at peace with yourself and love yourself as you are.

Set an intention
Do you know the simple but nevertheless effective power of intention? I discovered it one evening many years ago when I was invited to a dinner of expatriate women I had never met before. I have long hesitated to participate, for fear of being bored. Finally, I set out an intention that I would have a great time there. And so it was!!!

When your thoughts start from the heart and the best in you, the whole universe sustains you. To maximize positive outcomes, say yes to love in all its forms and no to the fears that poison your life.

2- Set clear objectives

What goals do you want to achieve?
Be clear with yourself about what you are looking for. It can be:

  • Acquaintances who can become friends
  • Concrete information
  • Contacts that can lead you to a new job
  • etc

Set realistic and achievable goals
I advise you to set yourself 1 or 2 objectives at the beginning. No more than that. For example:
Objective 1: I am physically and mentally present
Objective 2: I get to know 2 new people and introduce myself to them with my pitch.

Or: I meet 1 person with whom I have affinities and I have a good time with them.

Follow up actions are key after connecting with people at an event. Connect on social media. Send an email, or invitation for another meeting if you think that the contact is worth following. Don’t wait. People forget each other pretty fast. And keep always your promises.

You can better judge the effectiveness of your efforts if you know exactly what you are looking for. Keep in mind that it will take a while and regular appearances in a group for you to be remembered…

3-  Train, train

Start slowly
Exchanging a few words with your neighbor, a customer at the supermarket, or a stranger on the bus is a start. If it’s too difficult, just say hello or thank you, but do it systematically as soon as the opportunity arises…. This exercise will slowly open your mind to the other.

Every day, look for at least one opportunity to connect with others
Above all, do not think about all things which could go wrong. You will gain in confidence as the days go by. As Eleonor Roosevelt said, “You have to do the things you think you can’t do.”

Show up AND remain curious about other
Talking about yourself is good, but it can quickly kill a conversation if a monologue sets in. The saying that “people don’t care about you, until they realize that you really care about them” still applies very often.

Don’t wait until you are interrupted to ask a question. If no questions come to mind, think “who, what, when, where, where, why” and ask open-ended questions.

For the sensitive or the bravest people, leaving your heart to talk to others can be very rewarding because deep down, the deepest and most enriching communication is done at this level…

Join a group
Look for a group where you master the spoken language. Frankly, at first I tried to integrate myself into Swiss associations by speaking German very poorly. Bad idea. Simplify your life.

Devote a maximum of 15 minutes to a new contact, then move on to another.
It’s tempting to stick to someone already known to avoid having to 1) feel alone and ignored 2) jump into the water and approach a stranger. Don’t lose sight of your objectives… and place yourself in strategic high-traffic areas such as the buffet, bar or registration table.

I recommend that you find a group whose purpose really interests you, whether it corresponds to one of your values or your desires. You are more likely to meet people who you relate to, a good place to strengthen ties.

4- Celebrate

It is not repeated often enough, but celebrating your successes is as important as fighting for them. You were brave, and it paid off. You have been able to find friends, build strong relationships. Perhaps you were even able to get the job of your dreams through your new network! You have gained self-confidence and your life in Switzerland is easier.
You can be proud of yourself. And make you happy. Restaurant, massage, dinner, getaway, whatever, enjoy the moment.

My life literally changed me the day I did a thorough job on myself and accepted and welcomed with humor and joy all the facets of my personality, what a liberation! I encourage you to do the same and open to new experiences. Contact me if you want to gain more self-confidence or if you want to make new acquaintances in Switzerland and in Basel.

Louise Hay “You Can Heal Your Life” and “The Power Is Within You”
Joseph Murphy, Mitch Horowitz, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
Brene Brown: “the power of vulnerability”

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