Not quite gregarious.
Not really all that outgoing.
My name is Sheela and I am an introvert. Before you brush off my confession, hear me out. I find networking to be, at best, an exercise in trauma and torture. More often than not, I’m the one in a roomful of strangers, standing around awkwardly, avoiding eye contact. Like a trapped animal. Or I cling to the one person I know. All evening long. Inevitably, I’d make a big show of checking my phone for “important” messages to avoid conversation. And bond with my drink so no one comes over and talks to me.
Does that sound like you? Then you might just be an introvert, like me. Which doesn’t bode all too well, honestly, since networking is billed as a top (if not the most important) skill to have in one’s professional arsenal. So what’s a wallflower to do?
The world generally prizes those who are social and outgoing. Extroverts. In such a culture, the quiet and contemplative, otherwise known as introverts, can have a rather difficult time. It goes with the (misplaced) concept that all creativity, and leadership, and productivity, can only stem from a gregarious place. I’ll be honest and admit that I spent years thinking I should be different. I should be louder, funnier, more “out there“. But see, there’s a difference between introversion and shyness (although one could very well be plagued by both).
Shyness tends to be fear of social judgment. Introversion is how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel most alive (and most switched-on) within quieter, low-key environments. Not always, of course (these things aren’t absolute), but often. Therefore, the key to maximizing our talents (introverts and extroverts) is to be in the zone of stimulation that works best for us.
Several of these “zones” require getting dressed in something fancier than lounge pants. Others can be undertaken in the comfort of our homes, without the need to schmooze and distribute air kisses (plastic fantastic, dahlink). The latter is what I’m focusing on today since despite having a full-time day job, I’m in the unique (and blessed) position of being able to do all that remotely.
CONVERTING SOLITARY TENDENCIES INTO BUSINESS STRENGTHS
Introverts know the critical importance of networking, and their aversion thereto, early on. We also know that at its heart, networking is about creating and sustaining relationships. Meet and greets help with only the very first step in what should be a long, thoughtful process. You learn a new name, become familiar with a new face, and make an initial connection. What you don’t do at crowded, loud networking events is deepen relationships. And that’s fine with us because let’s face it, we generally don’t do well in such situations.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned work for me. You’ll note that each link opens up to a new page. I thought I’d keep this post as short as I possibly could. Hey, short by Sheela’s norms, how about that??
(a) Gossip Girls
(b) Social Marketing
(c) Your Village
(d) Sane Zones
And that, my fellow introverts, is how I’ve been navigating my way around this awkward (but oh so necessary) business called networking for the past 25 odd years.
That sounds like a lifetime, doesn’t it?
HELLO. MY NAME IS SHEELA AND I AM AN INTROVERT
Are you an introvert too?
p/s my photos by Sofia Touassa
I link up here.