Tag Archives: introverts

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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3 ways introverts need to promote themselves in the job search

I’m cleaning the house, going room to room, and come across a test sheet attached to the refrigerator with a magnet that says Welcome to Massachusetts. The test is one of my daughter’s and it says in large red ink, “100%!” Upon close inspection, I notice the test was taken in September of last year. I throw away the test.

I go to the living room and start watching the Celtics/Heat game and suddenly jump out of the seat. I stride to the trash. There I retrieve my daughter’s test sheet and put it back on the refrigerator.

I don’t do this because the test covers a stain on our refrigerator—I do this for a different reason. When my daughter attached her test to the fridge, she did it because she wanted to promote her achievement. I want her to know that self-promotion is acceptable.

My colleague, Wendy Gelberg, is a champion of introverts. I believe she would call my daughter’s act of tacking her test on the refrigerator a healthy way for a teenager to promote herself to her parents; and in fact we were very pleased when we first saw her grade…almost eight months ago.

Introverts who have a hard time promoting themselves must learn how to do it correctly. Especially when it comes to jobseekers who are trying to make a great impression in the job search. In her article, Alternatives to Self-Promotion, Wendy suggests three ways for introverts to promote themselves without looking boastful:

  1. Let others speak for you
  2. Bring a portfolio
  3. Report the facts.

Of the three ways mentioned in Wendy’s article, my daughter illustrates “bring a portfolio.” She is providing a visual aid for us when she attached it to the refrigerator. She can tell us every time she does well, but she feels that showing proof of her success would deliver the message more effectively.

“We all know that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words–and sometimes having some visual aids can help you promote yourself,” Wendy states.

The portfolio jobseekers show potential employers acts as a picture. Wendy gives “work samples, news articles, certificates/licenses, letters of praise, or other documents” as examples of bringing a portfolio. Bringing a  portfolio to the interview also helps introverts get over the fear of “boasting,” as it confirms to introverts of their accomplishments; it is concrete. Furthermore, employers are convinced of said accomplishments.

The third way to promote yourself in the job search, Report the Facts, is also imperative to doing well at the interview. This means you must back up what you claim. Wendy suggests answering question with the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) formula, and I agree. The PARs explain the skills you’ve demonstrated in the past and also uncover other valuable skills, skills the employers might not ask for but will be happy to hear.

The Celtics are down by nine points, the bathroom still needs to be cleaned, and I have to make dinner; but I’m feeling a sense of pride for what my daughter has accomplished, even if it was eight months ago. More to the point, I’m proud of her for realizing that self-promotion is necessary, even if it’s only for her parents. Self-promotion will be more important in her future job search. This is something I’m going to tell her when I have the chance, even though she’s only 16 years-old.

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“Hey, listen up” revisited. 4 thoughts on listening

I wrote this blog more than a year ago, but I continue to encounter people who haven’t mastered the art of listening. These people would prefer to talk over actively listening. The short anecdote below illustrates what I mean.

I recall a time when my father was shopping for a car. In his mind he had a series of questions for the eager salesperson—who had been trained to go over all the bells and whistles with the potential buyer—and wanted clear, concise answers.

The salesperson proceeded to introduce himself and launch into a monologue on all the interior features of the car, before my father even had a chance to ask about the performance of the car—the engine’s power and mileage. My father could have cared less for the seat warmer, radio controls on the steering wheel, and climate control.

Needless to say the sales person didn’t have a chance to get my father to take a test drive and certainly didn’t get good ole’ Dad into the buyer’s chair. The sale was lost before it began, and it’s too bad because my father was a willing buyer at that moment. The sales person had failed at the art of listening.

The art of listening is never as imperative as it is when you’re at a networking event. Those who attend these meetings know that one of the main goals is to show your willingness to listen and share advice and information. Here you must not only acknowledge the person with whom you’re speaking by maintaining eye contact, smiling, holding a firm posture, etc.; you must also process the information for follow-up conversations, if appropriate. Thus, active listening is an essential component of networking.

The appearance of listening is not only important; actually hearing what the person is saying is paramount. One of the tricks to help you remember what someone says is to jot down notes on the back of the person’s business card, much like taking handwritten notes at an interview. But mainly you must enter a conversation with complete willingness to listen, resisting the urge to speak until it’s your turn. Many people are formulating what they’re going to say and, therefore, are not actively listening to the person with whom they’re speaking.

The art of listening is just as important when you’re engaged in superficial networking. Let me give you an example of a recent interaction I had with a basketball dad who will be out of work in a week’s time. He will be looking for a new position in engineering in the defense industry. Even though I was there to watch my son play ball, I was listening to the man’s current situation, what type of company he’d like to work for next, what his skills and strengths are, etc. I now have my antennae up and will certainly keep my ears to the pavement for him. Some believe that more jobs are gained through superficial networking than organized networking.

Who make better listeners, introverts or extraverts? Extraverts are better verbal communicators and feel more comfortable “working a room,” whereas introverts prefer the intense one-on-one conversations with a few people. Hence, introverts will give you that undivided attention and process more of what you say. This is the theory, at least.

I’m an introvert and wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a great listener unless what the other person has to say is of great interest to me. I work with extraverts who are great listeners, though they tend to talk a lot. So this theory is a generalization at best, in my mind.

Listen and follow up. Master networker Joe Sweeney, Networking is a Contact Sport; harps on the importance of follow-up. To keep people in your network, whether in business or in the job hunt, you must follow up with the people you meet. Without listening intently to what they say and jotting down notes on the back of their business cards, this can be difficult when it comes to recalling a conversation you had four days ago. How uncomfortable would it be to call someone you met at an event and say, “Hi, Bob, I’m just calling to follow up on our brief chat the other night, but I can’t remember what we spoke about”? It would be very uncomfortable.

Sweeney writes, “Be a great listener and ask open-ended questions. Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth, so use them in proportion.” I think this sums up the importance of listening when it comes to networking.

I’ll reveal my little secret. I sold cars as a young adult. I was terrible at it for various reasons, but one thing I knew how to do was wait for the customer to tell me what he was looking for in a car. I resisted the urge to launch into the benefits of the Subarus I sold. For this reason, I never had someone walk away before a test drive. It was during the test drive that I lost many of my sales. We all have to realize that listening is key in effective communications, whether we’re selling cars or networking.

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Don’t disrupt my alone time, and 3 facts about introverts’ alone time

coffee shop 2Although the music is noticeable and people at the table in front of me are chatting and laughing, I’m happily engaged in one of my favorite activities, writing. I’m unfazed by the noise from the music and people as I sit in a plush chair in my favorite coffee shop.

The people and music are more like white noise than a disruption. It’s as though I’m alone. You could say I’m in the zone. The introverts’ ability to be alone, even in a loud setting, speaks to their ability to concentrate on the task at hand.

We introverts simply block out those around us. Some may see this as aloofness or even snobbishness. But it’s none of these; we just refuse to be distracted. Extraverts, who are drawn to people, may not demonstrate the same discipline; they thrive on stimuli and are more aware of their surrounding. Not me. I’m alone.

My alone time is about to be disrupted.

A man sits down next to me and after a few minutes wants to talk about the Red Sox’ World Series win; and I would gladly discuss the momentous event with him, but not now. I’m friendly, so I respond to his greeting and comments but quickly return to my writing.

It becomes obvious that he wants to talk more about the World Series, despite my obvious hint—I think it’s a clear hint. Maybe two minutes of conversation will be enough to satisfy this interloper, I reason.

Two minutes pass and soon it approaches five minutes. Then I start to feel annoyed with this man who wants nothing more than to talk baseball. He launches into Big Papi’s MVP award, followed by the duck boat parade he wanted to attend but had to watch on TV with his wife, who kept asking about the various players. The conversation seems more like an obligation than a mutual discussion.

My feeling of annoyance soon turns into the uneasy feeling of being trapped; after all, I didn’t ask for this conversation. A simple “hi” and a comment or two about the World Series would be fine, but to launch into a full-fledged conversation is ruining my focus, unlike the music and chatter that seem like they’re in the distance.

Prior to his arrival, I was pounding out sentence after sentence. Things were making sense. I had this eternal happiness that some mistake for simply being within oneself, which to an introvert is true happiness. And this man, although pleasant and gregarious, should know the following about introverts:

  1. When you see someone so focused that his eyes drift not from his computer screen, leave well enough alone. He’s probably taking advantage of what small amount of alone time he has.
  2. We like human contact, but at times we want to be alone, even if it’s in a crowded coffee house. It’s one of our pleasures which you, as stimuli-driven individuals may not understand.
  3. Conversation is not about you. If the other person is not engaged, it’s a sign that the person is not interested in the conversation. On the other hand, a welcome response signals a two-way conversation.

It’s obvious that I won’t get anything done with this person to the left of me talking incessantly, so I turn to the person who is sitting to my right, my adorable daughter, and ask, “Honey, are you ready to go?” Together my daughter and I leave the coffee shop, and on the way home she asks me who that annoying guy was. Just someone with bad timing I tell her.

Photo courtesy of lamill coffee, los angeles by oceanerin on Flickr

Guest post–Introvert leadership: how to master networking in 7 simple ways

Introvert Networking TipsA person once told me that she would rather clean the floor of Grand Central Station with her own toothbrush than network. Comments like this kind of sum up our overall attitude about networking.

For many people, introvert or not, networking is like falling into the black hole. Scary, tiresome, unproductive, mysterious and endless – is this YOU?

I may not be able to turn you into the poster child for networking. However, I have successfully learned many ways that will be easy for you to use, which can turn the dreaded networking into an acceptable activity.

Try these:

  1. Redefine networking. Networking is this decade’s terminology for building relationships with other people. We’ve done this since we were infants and it comes somewhat naturally, unless you put undue pressure on yourself. I think networking has us tensed up by thinking that we need some specific outcome in our interactions with others. While that is apt to happen anyway, it won’t be the outcome if you don’t first build a relationship with someone before putting demands on that relationship.
  2. Don’t work the room. A big misconception many people have when going to a cocktail party or meeting is that you have to cover as many people as you can. Not true. No one (and most importantly those of us who tend toward introversion) likes superficial relationships. There is no way you can work the room and become meaningful with anyone. The simple idea of trying to meet everyone can drain the energy right out of an introvert. Adjust your thinking before you go.
  3. Set a goal. Rather than make an event an open-ended, never-ending activity set some goals like how long you will stay and how many people you will engage with at a deep level. My own goal for meeting people is usually three. Meeting three people is fairly easy to achieve in most settings. Knowing that there is an end in sight helps you stay focused and positive about interacting with new people.
  4. Be a Friend. When you are meeting people, particularly at business-oriented events, it’s too easy to slip into a mode of wanting something in return. That feels icky for you and the other person. Rather than thinking about other people as a potential client, resource or supporter, think of making friends with them. Find common ground and interests. You will be more genuine and you’ll feel better about your interactions. This makes networking much more worthwhile.
  5. Speak to someone without having a purpose. This is especially true while at work. Introverts tend to focus on their work and speak with a purpose in mind. That’s all good, but you also need to branch out. Make a point of chatting with someone for just a couple of minutes without having a specific purpose. Keep in mind that when it comes to relationships the biggest commodity you are trading is your time and attention. Networking or building relationships at work is one of the most important things you will do. It’s critical for your ongoing success.
  6. Follow up. When you meet someone and you feel a connection, make the first move. We are inherently lazy creatures especially when it comes to communication with others. We like this new person and even think about contacting them, but we rarely do. You are doing the other person a favor by following up and following through to make contact for further interaction. If you email them, you may also need to make a phone call, as email habits and technology cannot be relied upon.
  7. Follow up again. You’ve met for coffee and are now thinking they should call you for the next interaction. Maybe, but don’t count on it. Wait for some period of time and if you don’t hear from them, call. I know of a few people who consider me their best friend. They never call and they also love the fact that I do. Be prepared to carry an unequal weight of building a relationship.

You may never love networking or the act of building ongoing, new relationships, but with these simple actions, you will be a networking rock star.

Getting ahead as an introvert doesn’t have to be painful or difficult. I continue to share great ways to make it to the top as the climbing manager you are. Learn these skills and others that will accelerate your career. I offer an ongoing FREE newsletter full of valuable career advice and insight. When you sign up for it, you will also gain access to “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” the eworkbook to improve your job where you are today.

Get yours now: http://nextchapternewlife.com/newsletter-signup.html.

This is brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, Introvert Whisperer & Climbing Manager Champion at: www.nextchapternewlife.com.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.