First, here’s a disclaimer. I’m an extrovert. I like to talk, and I’m energized by being around people. It’s just the way I am. That said, I have many close friends who are quite the opposite — including my sister who writes for Introvert, Dear (check it out).
It may seem that the world is made for extroverts — especially in business… Networking events, calls, meetings, etc. — much of corporate America’s main job duties revolve around communicating with others. What’s more, building and maintaining a massive network is becoming increasingly imperative for an upward career trajectory. So, as an introvert, I certainly have empathy; because, putting myself in your shoes, this…would…suck.
Here’s the thing. I actually believe introverts have an upper hand in relationship building, networking, and believe it or not, in sales positions as well. Why? Because truly skilled networkers and salespeople must employ many attributes that come naturally to introverts. Good networkers are good listeners. They are thoughtful problem solvers, they are authentic, they are caring, and they are not overbearing or “socially in-your-face.”
So, if this sounds like you, here are 7 key tips on networking — for the introverts out there. And, yes, I ran this by my introverted friends and family 🙂
1. Don’t Try To Be An Extrovert
Trying to be something we’re not never ends well. Often, I see introverts try and overcompensate — acting like the extroverted people they know. It’s awkward. They’re uncomfortable, and the people they’re trying to communicate with are uncomfortable too. You’re made special just the way you are. Don’t devalue yourself by trying to be something you’re not.
2. Read The Room
Most introverts I know are typically very discerning. Use this to your advantage. If you’re at a networking event, or any event for that matter, try and get the lay of the land. See if you can figure out who the key players are in the room, those who are also introverted (who you could possibly approach), and what the different group dynamics are. Use this information to your advantage to strategize your plan of “networking” action.
3. Be Honest (& Vulnerable)
It’s entirely ok to admit, “Hey I don’t know anyone here.” In fact, that’s not a bad ice-breaker introduction now that I think about it. I enjoy making connections and introducing other people. It takes some courage to admit this when you’re in social interactions, but it will most likely be well received — especially if you’re at a networking event. The whole point of those is to meet new people (and most people don’t meet anyone new because they’re too busy talking with who they already know). Many may be in the same boat you are and will appreciate you for admitting it.
One of the best salespeople I know is a Managing Director at Northwestern Mutual. He was a former supervisor of mine, and a great guy. His personality is polar opposite of the typical “salesman.” He’s not loud, outgoing, or pushy. In fact, he’s mild mannered, laid back, and soft-spoken. Yet, he’s cultivated an incredible business. Why? Because he’s an amazing listener.
Introverts are better listeners than extroverts. It’s intuitive for them to listen to understand. While extroverts fall into the habit of listening to respond, introverts are typically more present in the conversation — thus making the other person feel heard, respected, and important.
5. Ask Questions
If there’s a lull in the conversation, ask questions. Asking relevant questions not only spurs the conversation on, it shows the other person that you are interested in them and what they have to say.
6. Give Thoughtful Feedback
Introverts have the leg up here as well. Quality listening (to understand) will naturally lead to thoughtful feedback. Instead of being a chatterbox, you’ll be more thoughtful in your communication and choose your words more carefully than the amped up extrovert who can’t shut up. Trust me, people would much rather be around you than that guy.
7. Find The People With The Most Open/Welcoming Body Language
Remember tip 2? Read the room? Keep an eye out and use your discernment to spot the people who have the most open/approachable body language. These are typically people who are easier to approach and more comfortable/confident in social settings.
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