I couldn’t resist passing this clever list from Buzzfeed along to my fellow introverts.
This is a terrific article from Psychology Today on Introverts. Even though in the article we’re called “loners” it does a great job of illustrating the fact that much of the time we’re quite happy to be alone.
I am an introvert. And, until I started my own business, I usually avoided groups of people I didn’t know. That changed, however, when I realized that the best place to make new contacts is networking meetings and mixers. I found that all it took was a shift in my perspective to make networking events not only easy but fun (yes, fun!).
To make the most of networking events:
Most people are at networking meetings and mixers for the same reason you are – to make new contacts and build their business. Unlike parties, where people often cluster in groups that can be intimidating to break into, at networking functions people tend to mix and chat in smaller groups. Still, walking into a room of strangers can be intimidating.
Some key things to remember :
- Keep things in perspective – you have nothing to lose. At worst you’ll waste a couple of hours, but you could end up meeting someone who’ll contribute to your success.
- No one is focused on you, and no one will notice if you stand alone for a few minutes. And if you do stand alone and look pleasant, it’s very likely that someone will come up and talk to you.
- It doesn’t really matter if there’s someone you don’t click with. We sometimes worry that others won’t like us, but if they don’t, so what? Just move on and find someone you have more in common with.
- And, finally, remember, you can leave any time you want!
#2 Focus on connecting with people rather than selling them
I’ve met people at networking functions who instantly launched into an obviously memorized long-winded sales pitch for their product or service. Not only was I turned off, but I also didn’t want to recommend them to anyone else and subject others to their pitch.The best use of networking meetings is to connect with other business people who can refer potential clients to you. I’m not saying that you can’t gain clients from these functions, but I am saying that you’ll only get clients if people feel a connection to you, and for that to happen they have to get to know you a bit, and not just hear about your product. Plus, it’s a lot more fun!
#3 Be prepared
Create a short (2-3 sentence) introduction that summarizes the benefits of your service and practice it until it’s easy to remember. At informal events you can use your introduction to describe your business as you meet people. At more structured groups you may be expected to stand up and introduce yourself – if you’re prepared it’s quick and painless. It’s also helpful to write up a list of the benefits of your product and practice saying them before the meeting.
#4 Avoid overwhelm
At the first few networking meetings I went to I felt that every two minutes I was getting information I needed to act on or invitations to participate in other events, classes, or groups. I would get so overwhelmed that I was exhausted by the end of the event, and my automatic answer for all invitations became “No”.
To head off overwhelm, plan to “unpack” the event in a day or two when you have more time. At the event simply tuck business cards and brochures into your bag or folder and make notes about items you want to follow up on. This takes the immediate pressure off and gives you time to recover before trying to process everything. I also make it a rule to never accept or refuse an invitation at a networking event. I simply respond with a pleasant “May I get back to you in the next couple of days?” This gives me time to consider the invitation outside of the pressure of the meeting.
Networking events are great place to practice extroverting, and the more I attended the easier and more enjoyable they got. The trick is to take the pressure off yourself and don’t worry about impressing or selling, just connect with others and enjoy yourself.
As I tried to chat with the woman sitting across the table her gaze slid away from mine. I scanned the rest of the women in the group only to realize that no one was talking to me. It suddenly occurred to me that the only person interacting with me at this shower was my friend, the bride-to-be.
Then it hit – they didn’t like me! It wasn’t that they disliked me, but they clearly didn’t like me.
So here I was in my worst nightmare. I remember the fear as far back as elementary school, the belief that if I’m not liked, if I’m rejected, then…what? The world would come to an end? Time would stop? I’m not sure what I believed would happen, but that jittering fear was always with me when I thought about social events.
So how did I feel, facing the rejection I’d feared for most of my life?
I was bored.
That’s all. No shrinking into my seat in humiliation, no fervent wishing I was a million miles away. I just realized that it was going to be a long afternoon.
And, as I thought about the group, I understood. Most of the women were suburban moms in their early thirties with kids in elementary school. And there I was, mid-fifties, divorced, with an adult daughter. I was just too different, I think I made them uncomfortable.
Once I realized that no one wanted to talk to me, I settled back in my chair and just let the activity wash around me. Most of the women there had been friends for years – they chatted about their kids, planned potlucks, talked about their husbands. It was pleasant, this murmur of friendship and sharing, even though it didn’t include me. I was an outsider, but it didn’t really matter because no one was paying any attention to me.
I ended up loving that shower, but not for the usual reasons. What I loved was how comfortable I felt even though I didn’t fit in. There was such ease in not loading up the experience with needs – the need for acceptance and approval, the need to be one of the gang. I’d carried the fear of not being liked with me all my life; what a delight it was to find that when the time came to face my fears, they simply vanished.
Copyright © 2010 From The Easy Place
Yeah, an extrovert would have a good chuckle at the title of this post – what’s hard about conversations? But most introverts have struggled through the leaden “thunk” of a conversation dropping into uncomfortable silence.
My favorite is when I find myself in casual conversation with another introvert – that pause as we both realize that the other is an introvert and neither of us is going to pick up the reins of the conversation.
But conversations don’t have to be difficult. The trick is to let them happen naturally. Here’s how:
Most of the time casual conversations aren’t important. You don’t have to make the other person like you, you don’t have to be amazingly witty or charming. You just have to talk a little. That’s all.
#2 Focus on being interested rather than being interesting
No this isn’t another version of “get him to talk about himself.” It’s just it’s more fun when we shift focus from “Oh no, I have to say something” to “Hmmm…look at that job title on his name tag.” Putting our attention on the other person often opens the door to a world of topics.
#3 Broaden your focus
What’s going on around you? Our surroundings always offer a topic of conversation. At a cocktail party? Talk about how you know the hosts. At a conference? Talk about the workshop you attend or ask for recommendations on booths to visit. This is especially useful if you find you don’t have much in common with your conversational partner.
#4 Choose to say nothing
If you don’t have anything to say, or don’t feel like talking, don’t force yourself into conversations. It’s perfectly fine to sit and observe the activity or excuse yourself and move on. We sometimes think that if it’s uncomfortable we have to force our way through it, but, unless it’s important that we hang in there, its ok to just let it go.
What’s most important is that we stick with what’s most comfortable. Rather than trying to copy the conversational style of an extrovert, we need to figure out what feels most natural for us.
Finally, remember this simple rule – you are always your most charming when you are being yourself.