Do extroverts make better networkers than introverts?
That is a common myth based on our misguided perception of extroverts and introverts, and it is one that is all but true. And while research shows that extroverts are more likely to be chosen for leadership positions, success rates of introverts and extroverts are, in fact, on par. This should serve as an encouragement for budding entrepreneurs who value the importance of socializing and networking but whose introverted natures continue to hold them back.
And there is certainly no reason to. There are plenty of ways for introverts to enjoy socializing at a networking event as much as extroverts do. All that differs is the approach.
As an introvert, I can certainly relate to the sweaty palms and heart palpitations as you enter a room full of strangers. Worse still, when you’re professionally obliged to make conversation.
If you are an introvert who is just starting out, from one introverted entrepreneur to another, I can confidently tell you that there are ways around your nerves. Here are five tips to help you overcome any unease and forge a mindset that allows you to be comfortable at social events.
1. See it as a learning opportunity
Do not socialize just to socialize. In fact, not only is that hardly ever the point of networking, doing so without a larger purpose makes the entire experience dreadful and painful.
Think of socializing as a means to an end. Whatever that end may be is to each his own – be it networking for business opportunities, searching for a business partner, hunting for investors, or simply getting a feel of what’s out there.
Prior to the event, establish a learning objective that fits the event and your chosen end as a motivation. If you are searching for business opportunities, your objective may be to establish and obtain a certain number of contacts of potential clients or better understand the needs and pain points of your clients.
2. Seek out fellow introverts
Even though it may appear so, the world does not consist only of extroverts. Count on there being other introverts besides yourself at social events. And as one yourself, it should not be too difficult to spot a fellow introvert.
Because introverts are spurred on by quality and productivity, the connections they forge are deeper and more sincere – especially with a fellow introvert with the same values. So as you make your way around, as a warm-up, try to identify discerning introverts you think you would feel comfortable striking up a conversation with and start there.
3. Pose questions to extroverts
As the famous Dale Carnegie quote goes, “to be interesting, be interested.”
When interacting with an extrovert, be the one to ask questions. Extroverts are naturally more talkative and unlike introverts, get their energy from external stimulations. They enjoy sharing their opinion and often have no qualms about volunteering their points of view.
“As the famous Dale Carnegie quote goes, ‘to be interesting, be interested.’”
As an introvert, one way to interact with them would be to pose questions. Have an interest and be as personable as you can with your questions – even if it is to ask them to elaborate about a topic they have already lightly touched on.
Not only would that put your extroverted conversation partner more at ease, if all goes to plan, but it would also make you seem more interesting.
4. Schedule time to socialize
While an extrovert may constantly be looking for social activities to fill his or her time, an introvert’s default time involves peace and quiet. So as an introvert, if you want to make the effort to socialize, you will need to set time to do so.
Consider easing yourself in by starting off slow with one event every couple of weeks. With each passing event, you should begin to get accustomed to these external stimulations.
Plus, you will form connections with contacts you are likely to meet again at future events. Having already established prior contact, you will naturally feel more comfortable approaching them.
5. By all means, stay within your comfort zone.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, it is almost second nature for introverts to try and be someone “they would prefer not to be”.
That is extremely tiring. If you are already feeling uneasy at a social event, having to put up a front just to fit in makes it even more exhausting. To that end, don’t be afraid to just be who you are. If someone says something that sparks your interest, point it out. If you’re unsure, just ask. Doing so may even prompt new conversational topics that take you beyond small talk.
Plus, chances are that people will appreciate your curiosity and genuine interest, which make you much more approachable.
Ying Lin is a former journalist turned entrepreneur who’s dedicated to content marketing and entrepreneurship. She is the proudly introverted co-founder of content marketing agency Dear Content. Connect with @dearcontent on Twitter.
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