How to Net­work When You’re an In­tro­vert

The Washington Post Sunday - - MARKETS -

In so­cial situations or large gath­er­ings do you evade talk­ing to peo­ple, avoid 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, en­er­gized by be­ing around peo­ple, tend to flour­ish more than in­tro­verts in these situations. For the in­tro­vert, who of­ten needs some soli­tude and time to di­gest, net­work­ing doesn’t al­ways come across look­ing 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.

Here are five net­work­ing tips for in­tro­verts.

1. Look for smaller set­tings. If net­work­ing is too in­tim­i­dat­ing, see if you can avoid the big shindigs. Start small by look­ing for more in­ti­mate net­work­ing events or ones in set­tings where you’d feel more com­fort­able. 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 at the mo­ment. 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 the ever-in­tim­i­dat­ing group dis­cus­sions.

4. Let your per­sonal qual­i­ties drive you. Re­mem­ber, be­ing an in­tro­vert is not a bad thing! There are many won­der­ful qual­i­ties in­tro­verts pos­sess that can be re­ally 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; are re­flec­tive and less likely to make so­cial gaffes; and 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.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions. When you do strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with some­one, try to ask gen­eral ques­tions to show in­ter­est in who a per­son is and what he or she does. Mem­o­rize 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 this 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 or­ga­ni­za­tion 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.

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