Networking often appears to be a challenging task for many teams. Real problems start when the introverts have to step out of their comfort zone and participate actively. The critical importance of networking for a successful business is unquestionable. It provides business people with an opportunity to collaborate effectively, reach agreement and perform processes smoothly.
Many self-described introverts feel that networking cannot be beneficial for them as it brings discomfort and stress. Those, preferring to enter the room without saying a word and keeping their distance from others feel the networking process’s tension particularly hard.
However, being an introvert does not mean you cannot work with people at all, and there are no perspectives for a successful career. Introverts like extroverts are essential for proper business functioning. They just work differently. Those who understand and accept these facts strive to develop a business strategy that suits both these personalities.
However, the effort on the side of an introvert is also required. Here are 7 tips for nailing networking if you hate it.
1. Challenge yourself
The foremost is to understand the importance and power of networking. After that, come to the acceptance stage. Consider actions that might help turn networking to your benefit.
The most challenging part is to start. The very first steps are always the most stressful. Don`t worry and take your time. Only you can decide to challenge yourself, but don`t be too pushy. If your paws get wet every time you think about talking to a stranger, start with a maximum of one new stranger every week. In a couple of months, you`ll be surprised to understand there are no strangers left in your office.
As introverts tend to recharge their life energy by being alone, praise every successful acquaintance with a period of relaxation and distress.
Before you head into your next social event, conference meeting, or brainstorming session, spend some time preparing. Many introverts regard social interaction as a useless waste of time, as it only brings stress and nothing else.
However, before every meeting with new people, you can think of what you can learn from them. Come up with a few questions and icebreakers like ‘How did you manage to achieve career success?’ or ‘What are you passionate about in your work?’ in advance so that you could always put an end to an awkward pose. In addition, prepare some ideas in case there will appear a need to share something about yourself.
Besides, you can learn to network and interact with other people even by observing and active listening. Furthermore, listening is rare. Therefore it is much appreciated by others.
3. Manage your inner critic
Quite often, an inner critic appears to be the power that saps the courage and sends shivers down the introvert`s spine at the thought of approaching someone at the networking event, selling services, or answering strangers` questions.
To sound down the voice of inner critic in your head, repeat a simple mantra ‘Your emotional intelligence and empathy make you a valuable member of the team.’ Tapping into your values every time you feel inner unconfidence helps calm down and look at the situation from another angle.
Thus, thinking that you are too serious, intense, or solitary, always ask yourself, ‘What’s wrong about being serious?’ or ‘What`s wrong with solitude?’. These questions help to turn critical moments into strengths.
4. Ask for introductions
Walking into a room full of unfamiliar people is always intimidating. For an introvert, the situation is rather dreadful. In case you are afraid to freeze up, ask someone for introductions.
Approach one of your colleagues or the meeting organizes to introduce yourself to the public so that you do not need it yourself. After that, if people approach you with some questions, it will be less stressful for you. Thus, you will not need to start the conversation and show initiative to provide answers and support the discussion.
5. Use the 3-second rule
The 3-seconds rule is an easy way to overcome social anxiety. Haven`t heard about it yet? You`ll be surprised to learn how simple and efficient it works. Every time you see strangers that seem appealing and interesting, you have 3 seconds to approach them and start the conversation. Too soon? We bet it is. However, wait longer, and you`ll either overthink or panic.
Not sure what to say as 3 seconds is too short a period to come up with an idea? Actually, it doesn`t matter. ‘Hello’ would be enough to start with as it already makes you a person with a story, not just a face in the crowd.
6. Pay attention to your body language
Even if you stand aside and keep silent, you still communicate. Intentionally or otherwise, you still transmit information about yourself without saying a word. Non-verbal cues are perceived by people subconsciously. Thus, body language takes a significant portion of communication skills and transmits even more information than you think.
Much of what you communicate with your gestures and posture is subconscious as well. However, it does not mean you can`t work on the message you transmit. Here what you need to know to make your body language work for you:
- Facial expression
The best way to say ‘I am approachable’ is to greet people with an open face. With your eyes opened and mouth slightly smiling, you look more friendly and ready to engage.
Punctuating your speech with appropriate hand gestures helps engage the interlocutors and demonstrate your involvement in the discussion.
The best option is to stand upright, and a little bit loose, not seem rigid or tight. Keep your shoulder and stomach relaxed.
- Eye contact
From an introvert’s perspective, eye contact is the most challenging part. Keep calm. You do not have to do it all the time. Look away as much as you need but remember to restore eye contact from time to time to show your interest and appreciation of one`s speech.
7. Take baby steps
Take one step at a time. If approaching even one person is a challenge for you, don`t force yourself. You`ll feel better if you make something slightly out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, the consequences may be devastating. Facing communication failure may become a tragedy.
Consider finding a conference buddy to accompany you to the event. In this way, you`ll feel like you have a safety net. Having a friend on your side can make the situation less intimidating and stressful. Who knows, maybe one day you`ll feel confident enough to nail a networking event on your own.
Summary: Networking for introverts
All in all, it doesn’t even matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. People belonging to both of these types can expand your network. Sometimes, being an introvert makes some things seem harder than they really are. Anyway, it is up to you to decide whether to be afraid and stressed out or take challenges.
Undoubtedly, true networking and deep collaborative connections with fellow professionals are something introverts are capable of.
Erika Rykun is a career and productivity copywriter who believes in the power of networking. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and playing with her cat, Cola. Find her at WikiJob.
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