Awkward Interviews

An entrepreneur's tale of getting herself out there despite her social anxiety.

One of my biggest fears has been that I'll end up spending all of my time building a great product and have no one to use it or willing to pay for it.

I've known for good while now that I can't simply invest the majority of my time in building the PaperDemon site/app and expect to be successful. My research into entrepreneurship and startups has uncovered that one of the main ways that businesses fail is not enough traction. Startups may have a great product idea but not enough customers. And that's why it's important that I invest the necessary time to grow our community and user base.

It's also why I've identified my introversion as probably the biggest risk of failure for my business.

The value of collaboration

I've been creating content somewhat regularly over the last several months through our blog and YouTube channel. But I could do more to reach new audiences.

One thing I've observed other content creators do is interviews. The person being interviewed benefits because they like sharing their insights and getting exposure/more followers. The interviewer's audience benefits from these insights and from the extra exposure from the interviewee's audience.

Another thing I've seen other creators do is cross interviews. A youtuber/podcaster may interview someone on their channel and vice versa, creating cross pollination of audiences.

So it seemed to make business sense to form these relationships and give interviews/collaborations a try.

Why I hadn't yet done it

Over the past couple years I've been wrestling with anxiety. More recently have come to learn that my most of my anxiety is the “social anxiety” variety; the fear of judgment from other people.

It's easy to see how a socially anxious person could get stuck here. I haven't been so sure about how to approach others about a collaboration or how to even get started interviewing others. I have a list of people I want to ask, but I haven't asked yet.

I had this limiting belief that in order to start, I had to be good at interviewing others and good at talking to strangers. That's not something that comes naturally to me. Adding ADHD into the mix means I'm not great at paying attention or listening to others. I'm often not sure how to keep the conversation flowing. Not to mention, I can be really awkward at times.

I also had a belief that an interview had to be this long complicated well thought out thing.

Getting over my limiting beliefs

My coach helped me see an opportunity that was right in front of me. I was planning to go to ShrunkenHeadMan Con at San Jose State anyway so why not turn that into an opportunity to film interviews with others. It seemed so much simpler than what I originally had in my mind. Just a bunch of little 5 minute interviews with people.

He suggested I come up with two or three topics to ask people. Then just listen. People will volunteer things to talk about. And go wherever it leads. This seemed way more managable to me than asking someone to do a longer form 30-60 minute interview.

I decided I was going to do it. Even if I do it badly. The practice alone will bring me closer to what I want to be and where I want to go. I had nothing to lose.

Doing my Social Anxiety Homework

I attend a weekly social anxiety support group and class and at the end of each session we're asked to commit to doing any one thing we want in the next week that's outside our comfort zone.

This week I said I was going to interview strangers. My peers were impressed.

I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable rejection. Some people that I asked to do an interview are going to say “no” and that's okay. Because eventually someone will say “yes”. And this helped. In the end, I wasn't hurt at all by anyone saying “no.”

While things didn't go quite as smoothly as I wanted them to, I still did better than expected. Yeah I was a little awkward at first, but every time I did an interview things seem to quickly smooth over. It was mostly about letting the other people talk and maybe asking a couple follow-up questions.

One thing that I was surprised by is how frequently people said “yes.” People who didn't know me at all were excited to be interviewed and share their insights.

The hardest part? Choosing someone to approach was harder than the actual approach itself. I did waste some time just wandering around deciding who to ask.

What I learned

The fast repetition allowed me to quickly learn. Rather than trying to do one long drawnout interview with one person, doing a bunch of little ones allowed me to practice my approach. Also since I had a script of things that I was asking over and over, it made it a little easier.

Sometimes being in the social context is not the part that causes my anxiety. Instead the anxiety comes after. When I start to ruminate about the awkward ways in which I may have started conversations or could've been smoother in my conversations or whatever. But I've learned recently that this rumination is common and is just a part of the social anxiety. Somehow knowing that that's what it was and labeling it when it happens made it have less power over me.

Overall I'm satisfied with the experience. I didn't push myself too hard like I used to. A few months ago if I had done this I would've tried to spend the whole day getting interviews and ended the day burnt out and exhausted. Instead, I paced myself and only did it for a couple hours.

I'm also proud of myself for asking for help. I was wise enough to recruit my husband to help be my camera person. Having someone familiar there helped ground me and keep me more relaxed and allowed me to focus on the social interaction. (Thank you Mike for helping!)

In terms of the benefits to my business, I made some great contacts which may lead to future collaborations. I also got some great footage for an upcoming YouTube video which I think will provide useful insights for our community. (I can't wait to share it. The video should be coming out in late March/early April.)

But most of all I learned that I can do this. I am capable of doing hard things. And that while I do have social anxiety, it doesn't mean it has to stop me from doing what's needed to help my business.