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.