Networking for Introverts
Being a social introvert can be difficult in a myriad of ways. Being social doesn’t always come naturally and can be quite draining . Extroverts seem to have it much easier; they don’t have to turn it ‘on’. I am sure being extroverted has its pros and cons as well, but from an introverted point of view, when it comes to being social, we got the short end of the stick. I love being social and making genuine connections, but it hasn’t always come naturally for me. It took a lot of trial and error to get to where I am at now.
Yes, being a social introvert can be hard. It can be completely draining and leave you needing alone time, but it also has it’s upside. (I highly recommend Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking). Being an introvert in social settings allows for social balance. Think about it: extroverts tend to talk, and introverts are excellent listeners, both traits that are needed to make a conversation productive. I’ve actually learned a lot of great things about networking by being a social introvert, and I’m excited to share them with you.
How do you get over your fear of approaching someone?
Have you ever heard that the best way to get over a fear is to face it? In this case I have found that to be true. The more you practice approaching people the easier it gets. Walking up to a complete stranger can be very intimidating. It’s up to you to start off the conversation and give it structure, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be successful. I have approached people and started a conversation only to have it fall completely (kerplunk) flat. What I have learned from those embarrassing moments is that it’s not that bad. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t connect. It’s worth the opportunity to make a genuine connection. You never know where those will lead!
My Number One Networking tip
Make a genuine connection. Do not go into the conversation thinking, “What will this do for me?” It’s easy to let that feeling take over when you are networking, as networking in itself can be a selfish endeavor. People typically network to gain something, whether it’s to advance their career or their social standing. There is no harm if that is a fringe benefit from the connection you have made, but if your only intent on making a connection is for personal gain, then that connection will more than likely be superficial at best. Be genuine. It’s important to find a commonality between you and the person you are trying to engage. Think about what you can bring to the table as well, and seek mutual benefits. These connections will last much longer. More than likely these relationships will help benefit you and your career, but even if you don’t think that you are going to ‘gain’ anything you always benefit from making a genuine connection. My number one advice when it comes to networking and being social is to foster sincere relationships.
Use being an introvert to your benefit:
Introverts tend to want to listen rather than monopolize the conversation. Ask questions. A lot of people love to talk about themselves and can keep the conversation going especially if it’s about them and something they are enthusiastic about. People remember you when you listen to what they have to say, it’s not so easy to come by nowadays! A lot of times when you are talking to someone they are thinking about what they are going to talk about next rather than listening to what you have to say. If you are hearing what the person is saying and you ask sincere questions, the conversation will flow naturally. Now, if it were up to me I could listen to someone all day, but eventually if you are talking to someone who is interested in making a connection with you as well, they will steer the conversation over to you, so be willing to answer questions. Don’t make them drive the conversation the entire time, give them something personal about you that they can connect with and let the conversation flow naturally.
Sometimes when people get nervous, they can talk and talk and talk and they forget a key component of making someone else feel comfortable. Come up for air, and smile. Getting to know someone isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, so relax and enjoy that person's company, and more than likely they will enjoy yours.
When in doubt, give a compliment. Flattery will get you everywhere ,my friends. I am serious. It may seem dishonest or disgenuine but it isn’t. People love receiving compliments and I love making people feel good, so I love giving people compliments! (This makes me the best wing woman! Seriously when I am with my single guy friends and they see a girl they want to talk to, I giver her a compliment and them segue into, oh I have you met my friend... Works like a charm ;) )
Always be polite:
When someone is talking to you look them in the eye, listen to what they have to say, and don’t look around the room to find someone else to talk to. If you find the conversation getting stale or you don’t feel like a genuine connection is forming don’t just walk abruptly away. Kindly excuse yourself from the conversation, maybe you see someone you know, if that is the case introduce them to the person you are talking to. If anything another person will spice things up, and maybe breathe some air back into the dying conversation.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is “We rise by lifting others.” I wholeheartedly believe in that, so if you have a great network of people that you are hoarding away for your own personal benefit and don’t want to share with others, then that network will get you nowhere. It’s about making connections. It works both ways, the more willing you are to help people make connections the more willing they are to help you in return. It fills me with joy when I see people that I have connected change each other’s lives, and know that I was a key component.
There have been times where I get really excited about something and get a little sarcastic. Sometimes I get embarrassed for letting a part of myself show, but the older I get the more I realize that it’s okay to be yourself. Not everything you say is going to be hilarious and get people laughing and sometimes jokes fall flat. (It totally bums me out when people don’t laugh at my jokes!) But so what, give it a try. Being an introvert means that I think everything through before I say it. I filter myself more than most. People who don’t filter themselves as much have more experience knowing what people will accept and what they won’t. They know how to read the crowd or don’t give a damn if the joke they told doesn’t get a laugh. Because I don’t say a lot I overanalyze what I do say. “Oh my god I shouldn’t have said that,” or “That was stupid of you.” Has come to my mind time and time again. Let go of that worryand know that those people probably didn’t think it was as bad as you did. Aren’t the people that you want to be around the most the ones that make you feel completely comfortable being yourself? If you don’t feel comfortable being yourself than maybe you are not hanging out with the right people.
My favorite moments happen when I do say something that takes people completely by surprise and they think, ‘and you looked so quiet and innocent…’ ☺ It takes time and practice navigating the social waters, I promise it gets easier with time. Step out of your comfort zone and get out there and show people how truly amazing you are!
Are there any extroverts out there who want to share their networking tips?