As a networking and influence coach, I know firsthand that introverts can be just as good as extroverts at networking, and many times, introverts can be even better. But first, introverts have to shift their perspective. Here’s how:
Networking is about relationships, not personality traits.
I feel like a broken record on this point, but so many people forget this that it bears repeating again and again. Networking is about building relationships. It is not about how many people you talk to at an event. It is not about how many business cards you collect. It is not about how many fascinating stories you tell. It is about building relationships and you can only do that one person at a time.
Tip: Instead of thinking about how many people are at an event or in your personal network, think of people individually and try to find ways to connect with just one person, and then build on that connection. Your secret weapon: a smile. Smiling at people will open just as many doors as witty conversation. A smile says you’re open and want to connect.
Listening and asking the right questions are more important than talking.
Extroverts seem to have an easier time networking, because they have greater ease talking to people. That may be true, but many extroverts spend so much time talking that they never get to know the other person. Have you ever been the recipient of a nonstop monologue? Many extroverts walk away from a conversation having entertained their listener greatly, but without actually building a relationship. By listening, you avoid that mistake.
Tip: Don’t think you have to be the life of the party. Instead, practice the art of the follow–up question. Learn to look interested and interject with questions like, “That sounds interesting … how did you get involved with that?” Secret weapon: preparation. By preparing questions and conversation topics in advance, you’ll find it easier to help the other person keep the conversation going.
You don’t have to LOVE networking.
Many of the introverts I coach are under the impression that I love networking. I don’t actually, even though my friends call me a “raging extrovert.” I love people. I love talking to people. I love building relationships. I don’t like walking up to a group of strangers. But I do it anyway, because it’s important and it’s a gateway to those conversations that I do love.
Tip: Don’t expect to jump for joy. That takes some of the pressure off and makes it easier for you. Even if you don’t love the conversations, you can re-frame networking as a chance to learn something new. Secret weapon: similarity. Remember that many people in the room feel just like you and would love for you to talk to them.
Networking is a skill and skills can be learned.
If you can drive a car, you can learn to network, by following the right process. Never forget that introverts can be just as successful as extroverts. It’s all about the attitude and remembering to focus on the right things.
Happy networking introverts! (Or, at least, less stressful networking.)
p.s. – What’s your networking challenge? Share it below or check out more free networking tips and tricks on my website.