A more powerful perspective on networking … the introvert way! 🙂
I don’t know about you, but I found networking challenging until … I’ve shifted my perspective!
Extroverts are everywhere, and they’re doing very well in social situations and professional networking (it energizes them). On the other side, after social interactions, introverts get depleted of energy and need to recharge through solitude. Being an introvert myself, I totally relate to that. Susan Cain also recognizes introvert’s challenge when it comes to networking – she’s the well-known author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“, and the TED talk “The Power of Introverts” (15 million views).
Susan Cain also recognizes introvert’s challenge when it comes to networking – she’s the well-known author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“, and the TED talk “The Power of Introverts” (15 million views).
I still remember how awkward I felt at my first networking event. When I finally got to talk with someone, I’ve asked: “Everybody here knows each other? They seem to be so comfortable talking.” The lady smiled: “No, they all are here to meet new people.” I was totally blown away! It took me a lot of courage to step out of my comfort zone to just ask her! 🙂
There are and have been successful introverts: J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter creator), Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk (CEO Tesla Motors, Engineer, Inventor), Larry Page (Google Co-founder and CEO), Steve Wozniak (Co-founder Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Founder and CEO), and many more.
If success is not something you’re looking for, being content in your own introverted bubble, notice that all the above-mentioned introverts have something in common: they’ve started with a great idea, followed through and, in time, success came as a byproduct. They were passionate about something! How did they get there? For sure they found their way to meeting and associating themselves with the right people that helped them achieve such success. Isn’t that networking?!
Now, if I picked your interest about networking, here are 7+ tips for networking … the introvert’s way! 🙂 Click on any image to get these 7 tips (plus a bonus) in a checklist format (to use as a reminder).
1. Look at the social event as a way to get where you want.
If there is a networking or social event you’re interested in, there might be a reason why you need to participate. To get the courage and motivation to go there, become curious about how that event can help you move forward toward what you want. You might meet someone who shares that great idea you needed. Maybe you’ll find a partner, or get inspired by something happening there.
You’ll never find out if you don’t participate. Get curiosity on your side, and leave any fear at the door. Did you notice that you can’t be curious and fearful in the same time?! 🙂
One thing will happen for sure: your comfort zone will expand, so you can benefit from that in the future! (more on this a little later)
2. Set an intention for that specific event. What would you like to get from it?
Before going to an event or meeting set an intention! Think and write down what you’d like to get by participating in that event. As Norman Vincent Peale said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” 🙂
You might not get all you want from that event, but setting that intention will put you into a mindset of inquisitiveness that will help you overcome or diminish your fears (that could make you feel uncomfortable while there). And that, my friend, will open you up to connecting with people in a more authentic way (that’s always appreciated!), having a more pleasant experience, and getting some benefits!
3. Decide a minimum time to spend there. Pay attention to your energy level.
As I mentioned earlier, introvert’s energy get drained quite fast in social interactions (whether for business or personal). Thinking of this upfront, and deciding for a minimum time to spend there, will reassure you that you’ll not leave so tired that it will derail your plans for the rest of the day or next days.
It will also give you something to look forward to, so you don’t look for an exit as soon as you’re there. 🙂 This way, you’re giving yourself the chance of getting some of the benefits you’re looking for.
While you there, pay also attention at your own energy level. If it gets too low, you’ll not feel good enough to carry on a nice conversation, or even to pay attention to what’s going on there. If that’s happening, give yourself the permission to enter the “observer” mode (notice what’s happening, listen to conversations) until your set time passes. Then feel free to leave knowing that you achieved at least one of your objectives: spending that amount of time there. Yayyyy! 🙂 Smile, give yourself a pat on the back, and head home knowing that you also achieved something else: you’ve expanded your “networking” comfort zone! It’ll get better next time.
4. Look for other introverts in the room to connect.
Studies show that introverts are 30 to 50% of the U.S. population. Interesting, isn’t it? If there is such a high percentage in a country that appreciates more the extroverts’ behavior, chances are in any other country you’ll find many introverts. And this could apply to a smaller scale too, like a networking or social event.
Look for other introverts in the room! They might hide in the corners or sit near the wall, observing. They probably feel as awkward as you do in that environment. Approach one of them, introduce yourself … it’ll make him/her very happy! Many introverts like helping others. If that’s your case, you just found a way to make yourself feel better in social situations (by helping someone else). This will increase the chances of making a good connection with others introverts.
As an organizer of a meetup group for introverts, I’ve noticed that we (introverts) are much more comfortable starting a discussion with another introvert than with an extrovert. After getting more comfortable this way, you can expand your reach to other introverts or extroverts in the room. You can even ask your new connection to introduce you to someone else, or get him/her introduced before you’re looking around to meet someone else (or just sink in the environment).
5. Expand your comfort zone: do one thing differently than in other similar situations.
The comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person feels familiar and experiences low anxiety and stress. It might not be as comfortable as you’d like it to be, but at least you’re familiar with.
Stepping out of your comfort zone, even a little bit, will help you learn something new about yourself, about the environment you’re putting yourself into, and about others. When that learning occurs, your comfort zone expands. Next time you’ll be in a similar situation, you’ll feel a little bit more comfortable than you felt before.
Use networking and social events as a way to expand your comfort zone. If you do at least one thing differently next time you were in a similar situation, you’ll expand your comfort zone. Doing something slightly differently will lead to a more positive long-term impact on your life. Think of this difference in terms of a 2% angle. Imagine how much that angle will expand with the passing of time!
When I’ve let people know that I enjoy coaching introverts (being one myself), someone asked: “Do you want to transform them in extroverts?!” Well, I cannot make them extroverts. Research studies published in several psychology journals (British Journal of Psychology, Journal of Psychological Type, Brain Topography, to name a few) and by American Psychological Association talked about psychological differences between introverts and extroverts. We’re just wired differently!
By expanding your comfort zone as an introvert, you too can tap into the benefits of meeting new and interesting people. And fulfill your need for socializing! As human beings, we also feel the need to socialize. We just need to find our way into it!
6. Choose more wisely what events you’ll attend.
Big events are usually overwhelming for introverts, so a good idea would be to choose smaller events or social gatherings that interest you. We’re pretty good in one on one conversations (especially with people or on topics we love), so smaller events might suit us better. Is there a presentation or workshop you’d be interested in attending? Go for it! You’ll have something in common with the other participants, so you can start or join a conversation more easily.
Big events have their own benefits. I personally prefer to choose some of them to test my comfort zone: Did it expanded since I previously attend a similar event? Do I want to try a new networking technique? Will I connect with someone new? Do I get an unexpected surprise? I’ll go to check it out, with a curious mind.
I’ve recently attended such event, and I was quite pleasantly surprised with the results. I was able to focus more on my intention (what I wanted to get from that event) than on how unpleasant such events used to be for an introvert like me. Try it! It felt less awkward to be there. And with curiosity, and keeping my own limiting beliefs at bay, I got out with more energy than I’ve expected. Yeyyy!
Pay also attention to intuition when you determine which events to attend: it could be a good guide for choosing the right events for you.
7. Remember that not all eyes are on you!
I’ve recently coached someone in a public space, a library study room with big glass walls. At the beginning, she felt uneasy, believing that all the eyes are on her. From a pure coaching perspective, I asked her to challenge her own belief by looking around. To her surprise, everyone else was focused on their own stuff, no-one was looking at her! That simple experience got her out of her comfort zone, expanding it!
It’s the same in a networking event: people go there with their own agenda, their own insecurities, and expectations. They’re usually too busy with their own stuff, so you have the freedom to do whatever you want to do there. Keep in mind: by challenging often your own beliefs in a specific situation, you’ll discover if they’re true or not (and take action accordingly), instead of being driven by what’s only in your mind and avoiding other people.
Which one is your favorite tip? What action you’ll take to put it in practice this week?
Acknowledging it publicly makes you more prone to implementing it. Comment in the section below.
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Download these 7+1 networking tips in a checklist format, to have them handy for your next events.
Thoughts Designer, Coach for Introverts