In social situations or large gatherings do you avoid talking to people, struggle to maintain eye contact or tend to text people just to look busy? Would you rather go to the dentist than attend a work-related networking event? If you’re an introvert, you can probably relate.
Small talk in networking environments is tough for anyone, but extroverts, energised by being around people, tend to flourish more than introverts in these situations. For introverts, who often need solitude and time to digest, networking doesn’t always come across so effortless.
And it doesn’t help that there are sometimes social stigmas or misconceptions attached to being introverted, which aren’t necessarily true.Yet, some statistics suggest one-third to one-half of us are introverts. That being the case, when faced with a networking situation, you are probably far from alone.
Five networking tips for introverts
1. Look for smaller settings
If networking is too intimidating, try to avoid the big shindigs. Start small by looking for more intimate networking events or ones in settings you’d feel more comfortable dipping your toe into the waters. You can even start online on social media just to practice asking questions and/or simply get the hang of reaching out to meet new people.
2. Bring someone with you
Ask a colleague or other person you know to come along with you to events that seem too intimidating. He or she may even make the first move to meet new connections, allowing you to get an introduction and a chance to ease in on the conversation. Plus, having a person you know come along will give you someone to talk to or sit with during any awkward times.
3. Make the first move
As an introvert, it’s often hard to make the first move. If you see someone sitting alone, chances are he or she is probably feeling a lot like you are. Approach the person and start a conversation. It’ll be easier to talk to someone one-on-one and is an appealing alternative to an attempt to jump in on intimidating group discussions.
4. Let your personal qualities drive you
Being an introvert is not a bad thing. Introverts have many wonderful qualities that can be helpful on the networking circuit.
Introverts are often:
- Good listeners and are interested in others
- Observant of their surroundings
- Don’t need to be in the limelight
- Reflective and less likely to make social gaffes
- Work well in close relationships
However, sometimes introverts can appear aloof to people who don’t know them. Be careful, you don’t want to inadvertently come off looking as if you have a superiority complex or are antisocial. Instead, lean on the above qualities that will make you shine.
When you strike up a conversation with someone, ask general questions to show interest in who a person is and what he or she does. Memorise a list of standard questions to use as conversation starters and ask them. The easy part comes next because all you have to do is sit back and listen.
Be prepared though – chances are you’ll be asked questions too. Consider what you want to share about yourself ahead of time so you don’t get stuck in an awkward moment. Introverts often find it hard to talk about themselves and their achievements, but it gets easier as you get the hang of it. In time you’ll expand your contacts and, before you know it, you’ll likely be familiar with the people at the networking events you attend.
Networking is one of those necessary situations we must all engage in. But it’s not helpful to your career or to your organisation to be the designated wallflower at these events. By stretching out of your comfort zone—even just a little bit at a time—networking will start to become much easier.
– Washington Post