Tag Archives: introverts

8 networking tips for introverts

Eric Qualman

And how not to arrive to an event unprepared.

I was once given a ticket to a guest-speaker event put on for a group of young professionals in my community. I was excited and grateful for the opportunity because I’d be seeing Erik Qualman speak about social media—Erik wrote Socialnomics and is a great speaker. I would be able to sit comfortably and listen to an expert on social networking entertain me. So I thought.

When I arrived at the event I discovered there would be a networking hour preceding it, and that I was woefully under-dressed. My vision of kicking back and listening to a great speaker was dashed when I entered a hallway full of people dressed to the nines engaged in conversation. I promptly went to the men’s room, looked at my sad self in the mirror, and exited the building.

I needed air. It took me a few minutes to collect myself and prepare for an unfamiliar group of well-dressed people I’d be meeting (or hiding from). I was starting to feel like I was in a dream where I was in one of my workshops dressed in my underwear only. But I promptly reentered the building and (luckily) spotted someone I knew.

From this incident, I have eight tips to help introverts prepare for a networking event, not simply go with eyes closed—I’m proof of this.

  1. Know what’s on the agenda. In retrospect the first thing I should have asked when accepting the ticket to this event was what kind of event it was going to be. Instead I gratefully accepted the ticket  from a benefactor, failing to ask the nature of the event.
  2. Ask if there’s a dress code. Had I known there was going to be a networking session before the speaker went on, I would have dressed better. There’s nothing more distracting than knowing you’re under dressed for a networking event. (Again, I think of that horrible dream of walking into one of my workshops dressed only in my underwear.
  3. Go with business cards. I have business cards for work as well as personal business cards, none of which were on my person. Had I known what was going to precede the speaking event, I would have brought a set of business cards. There is nothing worse than someone handing you his/her business card and having to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t bring my cards with me.”
  4. Bring a buddy. Go to the event with someone or arrange to meet a person or two there. Perhaps there’s a person or two you’re interested in meeting for the first time. Reach out to see if they’er going. It’s assuring to know there will be someone you can speak with after you’ve made an initial connection. Warning: don’t stick together like groupies. Spread out.
  5. Make a soft introduction to the speaker. For introverts the soft introduction, via e-mail or LinkedIn, is a great way to introduce themselves to someone at an event. If possible, contact the person who’ll be speaking at the event. This takes some of the pressure off of approaching the person for the first time.
  6. You don’t have to stay until the end. It’s not like when you closed the bar during your college days. Oh, you didn’t do that? In any case, don’t feel like you have to stay to the end. There have been many times when I had such a great time at a networking event that I ended up staying the whole time. “Is it really time to go?”
  7. Mentally prepare for the event. Introverts have to develop a “Just do it” attitude. We need to prep ourselves to get outside our comfort zone, which includes preparing for small talk, not relying on seeing a room full of familiar faces. Preparing for a networking event might begin hours before the event, or, for some, days beforehand.
  8. Prepare an exit strategy. Related to number six, when you find yourself cornered by a selfish (did I say that) attendee who thinks he’s the center of the Universe and will not stop talking, you need a phrase to separate yourself from him. “It was great talking with you. I was planning to meet someone and I’d like to speak with her. (This is where your buddy can come in handy.)

The evening turned out to be great fun for me. I spoke to people who were no more prepared than me and others who were there to work the room. When I re-entered at the beginning of the event, I knew there was no turning back; and I’m glad I didn’t. One thing I wish I had done that evening was stay for the food, which looked awesome.

A major victory: I connected with a man who needed some work to be done on his LinkedIn profile. Had I not been there, I never would have run into him and earned his business.

Photo: Flickr, Girişimo

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The ideal car drive for two introverts

Teenage driver

This is a post I wrote about six months ago, but I think the message is important to introverts who may feel that the way they prefer to converse is perfectly fine. I can’t remember every word my daughter and I spoke during this memorable conversation, but the dialog is accurate. 

Recently I was teaching my daughter to drive. She was doing quite well but was extremely nervous. I knew she was nervous because she was talking nonstop; whereas I was speaking only to tell her to: watch for cars pulling out and entering our lane, be alert to errant balls followed by children, and make sure she comes to a complete stop at stop signs.

As I was saying, she was constantly talking. “Am I far enough away from the car in front, Dad?” she would ask. “How’s my distance from the side of the road. Oh my god, there are so many cars on this street. Why are there so many cars? Do you think I’m ready for the highway, yet?”

You might think I was annoyed with this barrage of chatter. Well I wasn’t. You see, my daughter doesn’t talk a lot; she’s sort of like me. So when I get to hear her talkative side I grab it like a greedy child grabbing candy. I will say that I often asked her to cut down the excessive talking so she could focus more on the road. But suddenly she became calm and started talking about substantial stuff.

“I talk a lot when I’m nervous, Dad.” I knew this about my daughter. “But I don’t talk a lot around my friends. And sometimes I feel stupid. I’m not like Sidney who can talk about anything. I’m not good at making small talk. And this makes me feel stupid. But I don’t want to talk about just anything; I like to talk about things that interest me. I think I’m a ‘big’ introvert.”

Whoa, where did this come from? Doesn’t like small talk? Prefers to talk about things of interest? Thinks she’s an extreme introvert? So I played along because anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite topics is introversion.

Introverts prefer depth over breadth when conversing. 

“You know, honey,” I begin. “There’s nothing wrong with preferring to have deeper conversations—like what we’re having now. This is how introverts prefer to converse; they like that one-on-one dialog. Is that how you feel?”

“Yeah, that’s like totally it. I like deep conversations. I’m not interested in some of the topics my friends talk about. Sometimes I feel stupid because I don’t jump in on the conversation. It’s like a competition with my friends. That’s why I think I have more friends who are boys.”

I had to jump in. “Girls can be catty right? Are you saying boys don’t talk as much?”

“Totally. With my guy friends it’s not like a competition to see who can talk the most or say the coolest things. I don’t know how they do it, the ones who can talk forever. Like Steph. Everyone loves her because she makes everyone feel special. Britt too.” Moment of silence, which I didn’t want to lose. “Do you think I’m a freak, Dad?” Oh no my dear, I thought, you’re an introvert, a very special person.

I didn’t want to go into that small talk is sometimes difficult for introverts because our time to process our thoughts is more delayed.

“I like to listen,” she continued. Sometimes I just listen to some of the stupid things they talk about. And I think, ‘how stupid that is.’ I don’t want to judge, but…like really? I’m a real ‘big’ introvert, right? If I think what my friends are saying is stupid, is it wrong not to join the conversation?”

I told my daughter, “You see, how you’re describing your friends makes me think that they are more extraverted than you. Extraverts are energized by being with people and talking to them in order to re-charge their batteries.”

“That’s right,” she said. “I get tired sometimes when I’m with a group of people. It’s like I need a break. It all seems like a competition. Who can say the most. With guys it’s not like that. Sure there are some that talk more than others. But for the most part, they listen to what each other says.”

I wondered if the willingness to give and take is a gender thing.

“You, on the other hand,” I interrupted, “like deeper conversations that mean more to you. They don’t happen often, maybe rarely for some, but when they do, they’re great. Like the one we’re having now, right?”

“Yeah,” she continued, “This is good. This talk we’re having. It’s like we can drive in the car and not say much but at other times we talk a real lot. I like our conversations…..So, do you think I’m ready for the highway?”

Before I knew it we were approaching the highway. I had never taken her on the highway, but she seemed lucid and was driving like a pro. So we took the highway home and survived. Why would I have thought differently.

When we got home, I administered an MBTI assessment to her. It turns out that my daughter is a moderate introvert, slight sensor and thinker, and clear perceiver.

“Congratulations, honey, you’re an introvert like your ole man,” I told her. I’m afraid she’s worried about being an introvert, but she’ll realize how special she is.

Note: this post was enjoyable to write. I wrote one on an introverts idea of a great vacation. Check it out.

Photo: Flickr, Michael Jimmy Ellas

Three ways to help introverts with their job search

 

Career advisors, when advising certain job seekers, have you ever noticed that small talk—breadth of knowledge—is not their forte? Rather they’d prefer to talk about more substantive topics—depth of knowledge—and appreciate the time to formulate their thoughts before speaking. What you get from them is rich, deep discussion that’s very purposeful.

Have you also noticed they don’t seem excited when you encourage them to network? It’s not their thing, entering a room full of strangers with whom they have nothing in common. It drains their energy even thinking about it. They may tell you they’d rather walk over burning coals than attend an organized networking event.

And when you mention social media as a way to connect with others, your job seekers perk up. To them it’s far easier than networking. They are on LinkedIn and engage with their connections.

If they exhibit these behaviors, it’s likely they’re introverts (read this post from the Huffington Post) and may not realize this, unless they’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I didn’t know my preference for introversion until I took the MBTI when I was 45-years-old. And when I got my results I was shocked because I considered myself to be outgoing.

The first way to help an introvert with her job search is to determine if she is an introvert. This will answer many questions she has about herself in terms of communications, networking, and social media use. Are you an introvert

Communicating

As you’re meeting with your job seekers, be mindful of how they communicate with you. Introverts are innate listeners not as comfortable with small talk as their counterpart, the extraverts, who are quick to start the conversation and would like you to listen. Your conversation with introverts will be deep and thought provoking, but you’ll most likely have to jump-start it.

The best approach to take with an introvert is to start the discussion by stating some observations and then following up with questions. Now stand back and wait for your introverted job seeker to deliver some insightful statements. Try not to interrupt.

For example, “After looking at your résumé/LinkedIn profile, I am impressed with the detail in which you describe your past jobs. You list a great number of duties. But what I’d like to see are some more accomplishments. What do you think?”

This question gives them the open door to express their thoughts. “I see your point, and I think I could explain how I was close to 100% accurate in my accounting responsibilities. In fact, I was often acknowledged for this and won ‘Employee of the Month’ many times.” You give your job seeker the opportunity to express her thoughts, and then you do what any good counselor does, sit back and listen.

Joyce Shelleman, Ph.D, offers this sage advice: “Offer [introverts] the opportunity to follow-up with you the next day with any additional questions or thoughts. It usually takes time for an introvert to think of all the things that they want to communicate if they haven’t been able to anticipate your question in advance.”

Networking

It’s no secret that structured networking makes many people uncomfortable, especially introverts. One quote I share with my workshop attendees is from Liz Lynch, Smart Networking: “At the first networking event I ever attended by myself, I lasted five minutes—including the four minutes it took me to check my coat.” This quote clearly illustrates how networking for the first time can be like trying to speak another language.

Networking2

Now imagine how an introvert feels presented with the prospect of entering a roomful of strangers, expected to make small talk, and (most difficult) promoting himself. He will feel tired just thinking about having to talk to people he doesn’t know, particularly after a day full of looking for work. He may also experience bouts of reluctance prior to a morning networking event.

But here’s the thing; networking is a vital tool in the job search and it’s your job to encourage your introverted job seeker to attend networking events. Suggest 5 points of attack:

  1. Tell him to have a goal of how many people he’ll talk to at the event. If three is what he decides, that’s fine. Remember that introverts prefer to talk to fewer people and engage in deep conversations.
  2. Suggest that he takes a friend or two. There’s more comfort in having someone by his side to talk with if things are not going as planned. Advise him, however, not to spend all his time at the event with his networking buddy.
  3. Provide encouragement by reminding him that he should focus on asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to what others say. People like to be listened to, and introverts are great listeners.
  4. Enforce upon him that he doesn’t have to be fake; rather he should be natural when speaking with other networkers. He doesn’t have to launch into his 30-second commercial as soon as he meets each person, which will likely serve to push people away.
  5. Lastly, he doesn’t have to be the last one to leave; although, he might be the one to close the joint if he’s having a grand time. This is in the realm of possibility.

Social media

LinkedIn has provided introverts the ideal way to reach out and connect with other people, whether they’re potential network contacts or employers. While this makes connecting seamless, it doesn’t complete the process.

I tell my workshop attendees that once they’ve made the initial contact, they have to reach out and touch them in a personal way, e.g., talk with them on the telephone and/or meet them in person. As career advisors, we need to make them aware of completing the process.

Using social mediaLinkedIn allows for easy communications through writing—an introvert’s preferred method of communication—however it is not as quick and efficient as speaking with someone. As an introvert, I don’t feel like I’ve closed the loop unless I’ve made verbal contact.

Encourage your job seekers to set aside time to talk on the phone for half an hour with two or three of their LinkedIn connections. If they feel so inclined, have them Skype with their connections or, one of my favorites, use Google Hangout. They’re very similar. This helps put a face to a name.

Your introverted job seeker will ultimate close the loop by meeting with an online connection in person for coffee or lunch. Encourage this if the connection is local. Keep in mind that one meeting might not be enough, as introverts network best by developing relationships over a period of time.

Photos: Flickr, Ploymint HQ

Stop the noise. Introverts resist three types of noise

NoiseAs I look at the Christmas lights that are hung on my neighbors’ bushes, fences, and house rafters; I wonder if the colors of said lights are a reflection of the owners’ preference for introversion or extraversion.

And from what I know of the residents, my assumption that introverts prefer white lights and that extraverts prefer colored lights is an accurate one. But this is only an assumption. I’m not aware of any theories that talk about preferences in color.

Looking at the colored lights from my front steps, I am aware of the “loud” colors. My lights, on the other hand, are white; soft white, in fact. To me they’re subtle, like my personality.

What I know for a fact is that introverts resist noise. Their tolerance for noise is not as great as their counterparts’. They hear the noise in various settings.

Introverts Resist Noise from Conversation

The noise of which I speak comes first in the form of verbal communications. Introverts can only take so much talk before they’ve had enough and feel they must run for the hills.

I give as an example the times I go to a public place like Starbucks where all I want to do is focus on writing posts or preparing presentations; and without fail the person sitting next to me wants to engage in conversation. (Read my post on disrupting alone time.)

In other cases I’m the social butterfly, like when I’m watching my child’s soccer or basketball games. I’ll talk throughout the whole game, always aware of the other person’s desire for conversation. If I sense there is no desire to reciprocate, I’ll respect the person’s wishes.

Extraverts, I feel, are always up for a conversation. It’s their way of recharging their batteries. It’s their level of energy that surpasses that of an introvert. But their unwanted talking is noise.

Noise, Noise

Another example of noise that introverts can do without is actual…noise. I for one can only handle so many devices playing in the household. The television, radio, and my daughter’s tablet playing Netflix playing all at once is maddening.

All of this is enough to make me want to shut everything off, which is what I do sometimes. This raises my family members brows, as if I’m being a downer. No, it’s just too noisy.

Some people are able to read while watching TV or listen to the stereo. Not me. I need quiet with a slight bit of white noise in the form of a fan or air conditioner. It is my introversion that requires the slightest bit of noise, not a blaring television.

If you’re looking to destroy an introverted person’s attention span, just put them in a situation where they feel overstimulated. Due to increased sensitivity to their surroundings, introverts struggle with feeling distracted,  and sometimes overwhelmed…(10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World)

Research shows that introverted infants react differently to noise than extraverted ones. The introvert infants become disturbed, cry, and thrash around more than the extravert infants. For highly sensitive people, 70% of whom are introverts, noise is particularly noticeable.

Noise from Crowds is a Distraction

Loud pubs and sporting events may get on the nerves of introverts, while arousing the extravert. The extravert is drawn to the noise like moths to light. The introverts feels like escaping the setting like a cornered animal.

Worse yet would be trying to have a conversation in a loud pub, where you want to say—and do say, “Let’s go somewhere quiet.” Your extraverted friend is fine with the music; he’s quite enjoying it.

It’s a matter of functioning. How well do you function at work when people are talking around you? As an extravert, it’s a distraction. But as an introvert, it’s almost impossible to get your work done.

After a workshop, I want to retreat to my cubicle, where I can sit and relax away from people who would like to talk endlessly (it seems). This is not uncommon among introverts. We’re not antisocial; we just need to get away from the noise.

Back to Noise from Colors

Nowhere in literature can I find evidence that introverts are more sensitive to color, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It makes sense that extraverts prefer the “loudness” that bright colors emit.

When my wife and I talk about Christmas lights, we admit that the soft white ones draw less attention to us. For this introvert, at least, I prefer the softness of white lights.

8 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post more than a year ago but have since added another strong trait of the introvert. 

When I ask my Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they think I’m an introvert or extravert, they usually guess wrong. “But you’re so lively and loud,” they say.

What do they expect from me, Dawn of the Living Dead?

Many people don’t see the eight awesome traits introverts demonstrate. Here they are:

1. The ability to speak in public is the first of eight awesome traits the introverts demonstrate. Those of my attendees who guess wrong about my preference believe that to be an effective speaker, one must be an extravert.

They see my outward personality as an extraverted trait. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

2. You want a sincere conversation? You’ll get it with introverts. Our thing is not more is better, as in the number of people with whom we speak. No, we prefer talking with fewer people and engaging in deeper conversation. You’ll know we’ll give you our undivided attention. It’s helpful if we’re interested in the topic.

3. We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style; we favor something akin to Parliamentary Procedure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intelligent things to say; we just don’t like to compete with the extraverts who learn by talking.

The problem with our method of communicating is we might not get the opportunity to get our brilliant thoughts out in the open.

4. We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own and, as such, prefer the computer over dialog. Extraverts learn best by throwing around ideas among their colleagues and friends. We find staff meetings unproductive unless there’s an agenda and some sense of order. Brainstorming is usually a waste of time to us.

5. We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners. But we don’t appreciate being talked at. We’re perceptive so you don’t need to stress your point with 10 minutes of nonstop talking. You don’t like caviar, you say. And you had a bad experience eating it when you were a child. Got it.

6. We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking. We just don’t have the capacity to talk from sunrise to sunset. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and express them eloquently. There’s no denying, however, that our workplace favors those who talk; so there are times when we put down the pen and let our voice be heard.

7. We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces where people throw Nerf footballs, eat cookies, and attend wrap sessions until 10:00 pm. If you see us working intently in our offices or cubicles, we’re usually enjoying “moments,” so don’t break our concentration. Nothing personal; we’ll join you at the pool table when our work is completed.

8. We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect on life in general. Some might consider this as standoffish, but those are people who require a great deal of stimuli and don’t understand the beauty of Quiet (watch Susan Cain’s YouTube video). We develop long-lasting friendships with fewer people, as deeper is better than broader. Don’t pity us if you have 20 friends and we have only five. We’re good with that.


My MBTI workshop attendees are not far off the mark when they guess I’m an extravert; I do have the ability to put on the Robin Williams act, or revert to a serious Bill Belichick persona. I put 100% into teaching the finer points of the job search, and as a result my exit from the room is quick and toward the stairway to where I can retreat to my computer.

4 lessons extraverts could learn from introverts

loud colleague

A colleague recently said to me that she’s tired of reading “self-help” articles for introverts and wonders why none are written for extraverts. After all, she said, extraverts aren’t perfect. Good point I told her. But I also added there’s no market for articles or books on extraverts.

In fact, when you search for books on Amazon about extraverts or look on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, you’ll find nada. They’re just not worth writing about, it seems.

Society has been writing and talking about the shortcomings of introverts for so long that it’s as though, for lack of better words, “Introverts need help.” Some books even talk about how introverts can be more like their counterpart, how you can program your brain to be more extraverted. Continue reading

4 ways for introverts to engage in small talk at a networking event

Networking EventI’m not  fond of forced small talk. There, I said it. I particularly don’t look forward to entering a room full of strangers and talking about myself.

Like at a networking event, where everyone is delivering their commercial like automatons.

But I do small talk at networking events, and I’m pretty good at it most of the time.

Small talk is important in professional pursuits; it leads to deeper conversation. An excellent article, Hate Small Talk? One Approach Anyone Can Use, talks about how to approach people and help them engage; thus, helping them conduct small talk and, as a consequence, help you with your small talk.

Jeff Hadden is the author of this article. In it, he writes: “I dread the thought of walking up to people I don’t know and making small talk. Not because I don’t like people, but because in that situation I really don’t like me. I’m not outgoing, I’m not gregarious, not extroverted. I’m the ultimate wallflower.”

I love honest writing, especially when it illustrates how I feel. But here’s the rub: introverts have to improve their small talk abilities, regardless of their comfort level or desire. Small talk generates business and the job-search leads.

If, like me, small talk doesn’t come easy, this is what can you do about it.

1) As the author of the aforementioned suggests, approach someone who is struggling to engage. Here’s how it might go: “Hi. I’m Bob. What do you think of the event?”….”Yeah, it is crowded in here.” Where’re you from?”….”No kiddin’? I’m from Lowell, a small city north of Boston…” This can lead to your elevator pitch…or not.

2) I’m fond of asking questions. My kids think I’m weird, like I’m interrogating them; but it gives me some fodder to respond to. I tell my workshop attendees I’m the King of Asking Questions. “So, what brings you here?” “What do you think of the guest speaker?” “You’re from Tampa (noticing name tag). What’s the weather like down there at this time?” Just remember not to sound like you are interrogating your fellow networkers; allow them to ask you questions, as well.

3) Go prepared to an event by arranging a date or two. I’m going to an event on Tuesday, so I invited a guy I know to attend with me. I’ve got someone with whom to talk if nothing is happening, as well as someone to introduce. “You need help with your website? I’d like to introduce you to John. He’s a wiz at fixing websites.”  If the conversation takes off, great for John. But now I’m alone, unless my second date is there.

4) Don’t bother working the room. There’s no law that says you have to collect 10 business cards, most of which will go into the circular file cabinet when you get home. You might meet someone with whom you have a great deal in common, perhaps there are business or job-search benefits to explore. Great. I’m not trying to give you an out here, just a semblance of success.

If you were to ask me where small talk rates as one of my activities, I’d place it below watching golf. I much prefer, as do most introverts, having a few lengthy conversations with people–most likely somewhere quiet. I know it’s important, but I find it extremely unnatural.

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