As a top-billing headhunter, I have worked with every personality type you can imagine, largely categorized as introverts and extroverts. The modern glorification of the “extrovert” phenotype over-exaggerates the benefits of extroversion and neglects the power of being quiet (based on the famous book by Susan Cain, entitled Quiet).
I am an ambivert (a concept discussed in Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human), a social chameleon who can modulate between the 2 extremes. Here are 3 Networking Tips for Introverts from an ambivert’s standpoint which has helped me reap the benefits of both worlds.
1. Ask open questions and practice active listening, which is most likely a natural strength to begin with. Introverts are likely to possess a skill that most people don’t have and should adopt more – the ability known as Active Listening. That means, true understanding, patience, and conscientiousness. Everyone likes to be heard because the best conversations are built off of the mutual exchange of ideas, not a “talking to”, which extroverts can be prone to do.
Open questions are the key to start building relationships and rapport. How to Win Friends and Influence People taught me this principle as I started my headhunting career. When I work with a candidate, I try to ask questions so that I end up only speaking 20% of the beginning of the call. What ends up transpiring is a deep, productive, and informative discussion where we learn a lot from each other.
Towards the end of the exchange, I start talking 80% of the time. I now have a chance to explain my side of the story: how I can help, what I can do, how we should proceed, unique to their situation that we just went through thoroughly. The candidate now asks questions 20% of the time. There is a beautiful balance and shift that arises naturally and everyone is happy in that scenario – win-win!
2. Force yourself to get out there as much as possible to practice exercising your extroverted side. Everyone has one! Most of my closest friends are introverts, and they LOVE to talk just as much as the next extrovert. Why should all that wonderful personality be limited? Get out there, and put yourself in positions where you have to learn on the fly and practice being extroverted.
TIP: Especially in specific job roles and in modern day society in general, we’re all so tied into our computers/smartphones and our digital personas, we’re not investing enough in our in-person charisma. Sign-up for events where you’ll go, ALONE, so that you’re forced to interact with strangers. Use Meetup.com, improv classes, toastmasters, anything to start challenging yourself!
3. Embrace the necessity of being balanced and the need to constantly put yourself positions prone to others’ judgment. I’m a firm believer in ignoring how others may perceive you. There are too many people in this world to please, and only so few that actually matter in your life. Don’t worry about everyone, just the important people that actually make a difference.
People are so used to the “us versus them” mentality, and the notion of “being authentic” that it’s an excuse used to dodge personal growth and improvement! “That’s not me!” or “I want to be real” actually means “I don’t want to change”. It’s not a message of empowerment. It’s a proclamation to stay the same. With no change, comes no progress. I guess do what makes you happy. I find myself the happiest when I’m changing.
In summary, there’s no shame in being a social chameleon or striving to improve your charisma. In the history of time, the ability to move others and to succeed socially is key. Embrace the chance to network/socialize, and force yourself to take on different styles of communication and experiment with what works best for you.
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