If you’ve always been the socially “game”, you’re lucky. Not all us of love the limelight especially when it comes to meeting new people and what they call “building relationships”. Even I, an introverted writer, would skip the part where networking techniques would be elaborated and emphasized upon. Molding in with a crowd full of new faces was never my strong suit and the thought of even trying to do so made me queasy in the stomach.
A great friend, however, gave me this wonderful example. She said writing for the masses and not making any attempt to build relationships with any of them is just like deliberately getting lost on island and then waiting for someone to arrive and rescue you. The metaphor put me into gear for a networking style that was best suited to me and my personality.
Introverts, can in fact network in ways that work for them. Contrary to what I used to think about networking not being my strong suit, I have learned ways I can challenge myself and make networking work for me—instead of the other way around. Here’s what I learned…
1) Discover Your Preferred Networking Style:
You might shy away from crowds or places full of large numbers of people. That doesn’t mean you aren’t able to engage in one-to-one conversations you do feel comfortable with. Possibly, you are better with attending smaller events with fewer people. For some, social media or online networking is their “most preferred” networking style and one in which they are easily able to engage in conversations with new people without feeling awkward. It’s best to work with a method that suits your personality, because if you are trying to pull off a fake personality, people will notice.
2) Make a Plan:
For extroverts, meeting new people and getting along with them comes out naturally. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for introverts. Introverts tend to get overwhelmed and lose sight of where they are or what they are doing due to the confusion they feel during unstructured social encounters. “Unstructured” is the keyword here. To beat the awkwardness and confusion you can turn your conversations into structured ones that you have carefully planned out.
For example, you can write down possible conversation starters, questions, and answers by predicting how the conversation would carry out. Be sure to include important questions such as asking for their business card or questions related to your business.
3) Make it an Aim to Listen:
Don’t shy away from networking situations and events just because you fear you can’t talk like an extrovert. Remember, networking requires both talking and listening. Even if you’re doing most of the listening and letting the other do most of the talking, you are still conversing nonetheless and gaining something from the exchange. The talker might be willing to share useful information, advice, or tips. By simply listening to what others have to say, you are perfecting half – or more than half – of the exchange. It is also likely for you to open up eventually and start talking once you’ve crossed the barrier of discomfort.
4) Focus on One Person at a Time:
Introverts generally retreat from crowds. I myself have always been better at conversing with one person at a time. Pick a friendly face or someone that isn’t busy talking to others. Approach the person and strike up a meaningful conversation. If need be, tell them about your lack of comfort in large audiences. You might even make them feel special about being selected from the large crowd you chose to overlook.
Just like you would for an interview or a verbal exam, take a sufficient amount of time to practice. Try going to public events that are NOT related to your profession. Practice talking to people you wouldn’t otherwise talk to and challenge yourself to open up. You could go to a wedding event and try this out with distant relatives or the local bar where you will be forced to meet new people. Experiment with ways to start a conversation and how to keep them up. By the time you get to the real event, you should have plenty of stories and starters that worked on your “plan” (point 2).
6) Take it One Step at the Time:
Networking is a skill and skills are built overtime. Since you are going to start from scratch, don’t overwhelm yourself with extremely challenging situations when you start practicing. If need be, avoid face-to-face interaction until you have mastered non face-to-face interactions such as those on LinkedIn or Twitter or over Skype voice calls. Break down your networking goals into steps and take it slow. For instance, when you finally decide on attending a networking event, you can make it an aim to get to know only two people the first time. The next event, you can increase that number to three, and so on. In due course, you should be able to get passed high levels of anxiety and build on a skill you can call your own.
Author Bio: Stevens Stone is an executive editor at assignmentgeek.co.uk. He’s an extrovert who has a thing for parties, get together and family retreats. When he’s off the desk, he prefers to hang out with his buddies and siblings.
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