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How To Network With Comfort & Confidence ─ When You’re An Introvert

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Networking Tips For Introverts: How To Network With Confidence
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Networking tips for introverts based on marketing for mutual benefit

As an introvert, you might naturally shy away from networking opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. Even if you're a more outgoing introvert, such dynamics and conversations might make you feel uneasy.

To move forward more comfortably, use the networking tips here specifically designed for people who want to transcend the trap of the introvert label to ensure progress and support goals.

RELATED: 5 Listening Skills To Make Every Conversation More Valuable

I’m suspicious of introvert and extrovert labels because they do not respect and encourage individual’s capacities to learn and stretch. They also can bypass the opportunities for adventure that come with curiosity about what’s fresh, possible, and beneficial.

While most everyone has tendencies and preferences about what they want in life and how to get there, a label such as "introvert" may limit that process. Instead, explore what introversion means to you, so you can be aware of how that tendency influences your choices and behavior.

I’m not suggesting that you change your nature or who you are comfortable being, whether at work or life in general. Instead, I’m encouraging you to keep an open mind to take a voyage to a wider range of choices for satisfaction and success, as you define them.

One place to open that thinking is to recognize there are various ways of viewing the relationship between extroversion and introversion, which is considered a central aspect of personality theory.

What is the difference between extroversion and introversion?

Generally, the gregarious extrovert gets energy from being with other people and is likely to be bored when alone. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to enjoy solitary activities, preferring one-on-one interaction to large groups.

One popular assumption is that if you’re high in introversion, you’re low in extroversion. Yet, the original coiner of the theory, psychiatrist Carl Jung, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator developers believed everyone has both sides and one is more dominant.

Another category is the "ambivert", a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features — also called an "extroverted introvert".

To make networking more comfortable for introverts, the key is to honor your uniqueness, while expanding your options.

One choice is to remain in your comfort zone or experiment somewhat depending on what you want to accomplish and what you value. As with Susan Caine’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, this article focuses on those that tend toward such behavior.

So, in contrast to much advice about networking situations oriented to extroverts, here you’ll find attention to and recognition of the importance of introversion. Whatever your tendency within that range of behavior, though, there is benefit in expanding your repertoire to prepare for accelerating change related to the future of work.

When you consider networking as a form of marketing, effective networking can be seen as a process of finding mutual benefit.

Start by reaching out for a possible professional relationship that seems worthwhile. The connections you make can complement your strengths and enrich professional as well as personal life. Unanticipated opportunities to assist others can also develop.

Though marketing is often organized by target groups or discrete categories of people to predict behavior, here marketing is used more broadly. Effective networking as a form of marketing is more open-minded. It is an interactive, interpersonal process of mutual influence that reaches beyond labels.

As a result, it leads to better appreciation of the variety that others offer and avoids the dangers of reducing people to categories.

In networking or any other worthwhile relationship-building process, generalizations about others often distract from seeing what makes each person unique, valuable and interesting. Without acknowledging those individual differences, the mutual appreciation that supports and sustains good relationships is less likely to evolve.

As you truly get to know someone, you’ve probably noticed some expectations are met, others not. Authenticity becomes more attractive than predictability because it supports deeper trust building. An individual’s complexity and ambiguity, life stories and actions, logical or not, combine to help appreciate their worth.

In fact, if people were static, they’d be less likely to learn, grow, and be dynamic, even over short periods of time. Imagine how boring life and relationships would be if you could anticipate everything about others — and even yourself.

Introversion has a range. So, if you consider yourself an introvert, keep in mind that this description can relate to a range of behavior from being the quiet type to being a social introvert, just short of extroversion. Behavior can also vary with how you’re feeling, who you’re with, and your environment.

However, if you want to verify a tendency toward introversion, here are some specific signs to look for.

Introverts tend to:

  • Prefer to concentrate in a quiet environment.
  • Appreciate details over generalizations.
  • Want to know what’s behind something.
  • Think about issues and situations a great deal before acting.
  • Feel tired after or in anticipation of intense social interaction.

RELATED: 7 Of The Best Networking Tips For Introverts (That Make Work Events Less Awkward)

If you resonate with these characteristics, you can honor your introverted tendencies, while still reaching out to develop new or deeper networking relationships to serve mutual interests. Networking is making choices. Use the variety of suggestions provided below to add to your own ideas, too.

Consider and adapt these networking tips for introverts to increase your comfort and confidence as you reach out to others:

In general:

  • Avoid noisy crowds in favor of sharing a meal or being in quiet situations that support engaging conversations for discussing subjects of mutual interest.
  • Experiment with writing e-mails, notes and letters in which the content gives recipients a sense of who you are and your interests through word choice, style, humor and information, for example.
  • Imagine a brief, informal script for yourself before returning or making a phone call.
  • Connect with people who bring new as well as different experiences and perspectives in ways that are comfortable for you both.
  • Remind yourself of the worst thing that could happen and how you’d handle it to lessen any anxiety you may feel.

Before participating in a networking function:

  • Consider before get-togethers and meetings several, appropriate topics you enjoy and how you may discuss them (e.g. short, apt stories, information of value to others, applications to situations you share).
  • Attend to one goal you want to accomplish while you’re at a get-together; participate regularly in activities and functions to become more at home and recognizable.
  • Make sure you have plenty of rest before going to necessary larger functions.
  • Plan to attend with a partner or someone with whom you’re comfortable, as long as you don’t stay joined at the hip while there. Possibly choose someone who can introduce you around and will not feel dropped as you engage with others. Of course, help them connect too.
  • Imagine how you can make the experience fun for yourself.

At a function:

  • Acknowledge that your listening skills are just as important as your speaking skills. Practice asking open-ended questions starting with “what” and “how.” Feel free to paraphrase what’s said. Obtain useful information for gauging and improving a situation by attending to body language and tone of voice, including your own.
  • Walk up to an individual who’s alone and concentrate on helping them feel at ease.
  • Stretch time when you don’t have a pithy, quick response. For example, say something like, “I want to give this the thought it deserves. Can I get back to you on it?”
  • Avoid, move away from or manage “interrupters.” If you feel comfortable, say calmly with a smile, “Let me finish.” And if you want to add some confident humor, you could try, “You may find it valuable (interesting, worthwhile) to_________________.”
  • Give yourself permission to leave a large, unproductive function whenever you wish.

To bring these ideas together, name a few people for practicing who would also benefit; imagine how best to thank them. When will you follow up? Beforehand, prepare a short, informal script to explain your specific goals and what you want to say about expanding your repertoire as an introvert.

Most important, be true to yourself, building on strengths such as integrity, quiet sense of humor and authenticity.

RELATED: Introverts Are The Most Highly Evolved Personality Type

Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series. Email Ruth to request bonus chapter one of her upcoming book: Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future, or visit her website for a free consultation offer.

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