Introverts, come to peace with who you are

As an introvert I often admire–no envy–people who seem totally relaxed with small talk and “working the room.” That’s not me, however.

I know the importance of small talk and mingling, and I do my best to oblige the members of a party or networking event. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not all that great when it comes to this small talk stuff.

That being said, I don’t want you to pity people like me. Where we lack the gift of gab, we excel in thoughtful rhetoric. Could you say we’re deep? You could, but that’s really missing the point. We enjoy conversation as much as the next person, just not at a supersonic rate.

In other words, we are who we are. Introverts are people who could care less about mastering small talk; we’re more inclined to speak at length with someone…maybe the whole night. We engage, listen, engage, listen, etc. An article called The Problem with Networking illustrates the often futility of working the room, yet the benefits of honing in on one or two people who will later prove to be useful connections. I quote the authors of the article, Stephen and Sheree Van Vreede:

“….My point is that I have watched job seekers work a room, build large social media communities, and network, network, network like the best of them, all with very little result. Many of these people are extroverts, love mingling, and are the life of most parties, but that’s where it ends….At the same time, I have seen other job seekers, introverted techies with small communities who like to sit in the corner at every party, hone in on the top handful of contacts and turn almost every one into a possible job lead.”

Don’t take this as an invitation to talk at us and expect us to listen without wanting to express our thoughts; we have thoughts, you know. We offer the courtesy of hearing you and then building on that conversation. We like to ask questions to generate conversation. We also like to be asked questions and complete answering your questions. Allowing us the time to process shows you’re truly interested in what we have to say.

It is said that at an event we enjoy developing a relationship with people with whom we feel connected. If we are talking with one person the whole time, we’re not bummed out. We don’t consider this a loss. On the contrary, we feel satisfied. Do you think this weird? We’re not, like, into collecting 15 business cards, most of which we’ll deposit in the circular file cabinet. We want real connections.

That’s part of connecting with fewer people–it’s easier for us to keep track of them. I’ve been at networking events where I’ve met 10 people or so, but only two or three were memorable. These were the ones I followed up with, the people with whom I developed a relationship. As they say, less can be better.

If you’re an extravert and thinking, “This guy’s a freak. This guy’s a hermit,” that’s fine. Think what you want. This is who I am, not who I’m not. There ain’t much I can do about it, not if I want to feel comfortable and fulfilled in my networking endeavors. And, no, I’m not here to offer you introverts hollow advice on how to be more like extraverts….I’ve come to peace with who I am.

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7 thoughts on “Introverts, come to peace with who you are

  1. Tanya Harris

    Bob, interesting article, I attended an MBTI session and could not believe the interaction between the introvert and extrovert group, with the introverts expected to speak up, yet the extroverts were not required to tone down, it was such an eye opening experience that I started to investigate I and E. What was even more astonishing are the resources/books etc for Introverts yet found little for extroverts. Do you think there is some misconception that introverts are insecure, unhappy and need help and extroverts are confident,happy and don’t need help, as my experience shows that confidence is on the surface and in fact the truly confident people are introverts.

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    1. vlbrown

      Tanya – a lot of introverts are just learning that a) they are introverts, b) what that actually means, and c) it’s OK! The introverts themselves often feel insecure and unhappy, having been told (or thinking) for years that there’s something wrong with them. You don;t need to take my word for it. Hunt the web for articles about Introverts, especially articles by Susan Cain, Nancy Ancowitz, Marti Laney, or Laurie Helgoe. Read the comments from people who are saying “Wow. I never knew!” Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk. Or read this article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/self-promotion-introverts/201206/apa-gains-sanity-introverts-not-nuts

      Yes, there are a lot of misconceptions, just as you listed them!

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  2. vlbrown

    Bob –
    I attended a “Women Who Code” meeting in September. It was basically a networking meeting. The room was set up with a lot of chairs in small circular groups but most of the people began by standing near the entrance (and the refreshments), some eating, some talking, some (like me) hanging on the edge, listening… The host for the evening gave some administrative info, including the Wifi password “for anyone who’d rather use your laptop instead of talking. (laughs)”.

    A few minutes later, I noticed a woman sitting further out in the room, away from most of the bustle and chatter, in one of the still largely unused chairs. She had her laptop open. I walked over and took advantage of the host’s earlier remarks to start a conversation. She commented that the other end of the room was too noisy after a day at work. I agreed and asked if I could join her.

    We started talking and were soon joined by one, then two, then three more women. Gradually people around us formed their own small groups, proceeding to sit down and talk. My group exchanged information about what we did, who was hiring, who was looking for work.

    If every “networking meeting” I attended worked like this one I would be in happy introvert networker heaven.

    Is that all we need to make a networking event more introvert-friendly? Small circular groups of chairs?

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  3. rrendon86

    I feel the same way when I go to networking events, I don’t have the need to talk to 15 people. I am pleased with one or two people I feel a connection with. Although it did take me awhile to realize I was an introvert, I have been successful with small talk but only if I realize that the other person in interested in chatting. Small talk used to scare me but now I am okay with striking conversations with strangers but only one per day at most.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Thanks rrendon86. I think we’re given the impression that we need to jump into 10 discussions in order to be successful at networking events. One of my most successful nights was talking with one person the whole night. He agreed to be a guest speaker at our career center.

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  4. Pingback: Are you Solar Powered or Battery Operated? Understanding Introversion and Extraversion | Therapy With Shannon

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