Networking being an introverted person
First of all, let’s answer the question why we network anyway. We can network for many different reasons, but on a “bright sunshiny day” we decided this would add value to our business. We discovered that with more social interaction, we increase the trust we have in the other person. We know more about each other and instinctively we like to protect the relationship the closer we are. And that is what is also good for your business.
It’s been researched as well that trust in people gives you a higher chance on success. That, not all people really dare to feel or believe. They keep asking themselves: “Is it safe to share?” or “I have to leave a good impression to the person I am meeting, so I’d better not show my human side, just my professional”. They act out of fear for the competition or maybe out of not really knowing themselves.
To network in a successful way, you need to stop seperating work and private life and just be a person. You know very well what you’d like to share or not, no need to fatigue yourself with all kinds of different roles to play.
So, there we go, we network… Only, there is one ‘problem’: I am an introverted person. I’ll tell you a short story about that: When I was a child, growing up in the Netherlands, my mother found it a good idea that we, her three daughters would play outside every day. My sisters liked that in general. They played with the other kids in the neighbourhood. They played ball games or climbed trees. I didn’t like that so much. I was afraid of the ball hitting me. Climbing trees I never liked and other kids… mmm (I was social when it came to injustice, then I defended others, but in general I liked to be alone). So I waited in the garden until my mother would let me in, so I could continue drawing, writing stories or reading books.
Living in a village the milk man rang the door bell, my mother opened the door and I accompanied her, which was an exception. The man asked my mother: do you have a niece who stays over? (meaning me). We lived there already for two years and since he only knew my two sisters. he thought my parents had two daughters instead of three.
Nowadays not everyone would believe that I am not a natural extraverted person I guess. How did that happen?
- I learned to use the fact that I see the bigger picture. I don’t get drowned in the chaos. This is a great advantage. That way I don’t loose the overview on a situation. So lesson one is: do a soul search to find who you are and what you can use in different circumstances. Most introvert people have spent their lives thinking things over, seeing things from different perspectives and introspection is very often something they are familiar with. So why not use that skill?
- I learned to be myself, in any situation. Being an introvert, I have spent a lot of time alone in my life. I can say I am my own best friend. Trying to impress people by trying to be extravert, will make you very uncomfortable. The whole meeting becomes awkward (and you just want to run home!).
- I practiced little scentences in front of the mirror. This might sound ridiculous maybe, but it helped me a lot. “Hello, nice meeting you, how do you like this restaurant?” “Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I like your dress!”, “Good afternoon, nice to meet you, where are you from?”, etc, etc. By repeating these scentences like a mantra, I got more and more used to them. Even when I was nervous I could still find them somewhere in my mind and use them to start a conversation.
- I chose clothes I was comfortable in. Of course they had to fit the situation a bit (I didn’t go to the queen in a jeans), but chosing clothes before the networking or meeting, I did based on how I felt. Sometimes it’s just not a good idea to wear a red dress, if that doesn’t fit with how you feel at that moment. For men it might be a but more easy to choose something.
- I gathered all my courage and just started to go to conferences, networking events and dinners and didn’t leave much time in between them. (And: pay attention to your posture; straight up, don’t look to your toes :). You can practice this in front of the mirror as well).
Find your qualities you can use, don’t try to impress people, be yourself, practice little scentences to start a conversation, wear something you feel comfortable in, just go for it.
I say it again (because in our society being an extraverted person is very high rated and you might feel you ‘should be that way as well’): You’d better not try to go from being an introvert to being an extravert. Accept yourself the way you are. Teaching yourself then mildly to interact with others in different situations in order to achieve what you want, will enrich your life!
You definitely don’t have to laugh out loud, but if you can, while meeting your client at a networking dinner (like me on the picture), you know that you have overcome quite a bit.
I’m still introverted. I just now also enjoy being with others!
Wishing you courage (the first steps are the hardest) and lots of successful, pleasant meetings!