Growing up I was not the most outgoing individual. I gravitated to sports and activities that were more individualistic. In high school I found it hard to relate to people if we didn’t have a shared objective to focus on. Anyone around me would have said yeah TJ is quit but once you get to know him he is a good guy. In my mind this wasn’t a bad thing I simply thought other people put too much effort into pointless conversation. I didn’t care to relate if there was no reason for relating in the first place. It turns out what most viewed as acts of shyness were in fact very common traits of an introvert.
There is strength in reserve. I recently read: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and was interested to see how deep the author got into the ins and outs of introverts and extroverts. In a lot of ways I could identify with the examples she gave. IE at a party I am more inclined to stand off to the side and observe rather than being in the middle of every discussion. I also relate better one on one than I do one to many. She goes on to point out these traits that our society often labels as deficiencies are in fact key characteristics of deep thinkers and hyper responsive personalities.
I don’t know what happened that made her want to dig so deeply into all of this but I am glad she did. It shed a lot of light into the common strengths and weaknesses of us introverts. One of my favorite things to point out to my wife is the fact that extroverts have an easier time falling into leadership roles but predominantly introverts make better leaders. If this sounds like you I suggest you pick the book up. It may help you see where you will naturally be effective and in what situations you may have a harder time.
Networking for Introverts
In business introverts are often challenged by the need to network with others. As you likely know it can be hard to carry a conversation the direction you want it to go without having the charismatic bent. I have had many instances in which I dropped the ball on this front. Odd silences, off topic tangents, or blatant misunderstandings are bound to happen but don’t let that bring you down. Like anything the more you work at it (and think about it) the better you can become at building those all-important relationships. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Find the common ground. What is it that brought you and the other person into the same room? What interests do you likely share? What do you know they care about that you also find important? Note: this process needs to be 100% sincere. There is no way faking your way through it. If you try you end up looking like a used car salesman. Build your list of bullet point issues that you see eye to eye on and build off of them as the conversation wains.
- People are inherently selfish. As pleasant as anyone is they will generally prefer to talk about themselves. Conversations focused on them will be more naturally enjoyable than one in which the focus is on you. What is it that you can do for them that may give them an incentive to keep you in their black book? Ask yourself if you were them what do you have to offer that they can use. Dale Carnegie gets into this dynamic in his book: “How to win friends and influence people”.
- What are their pains? There are things in other people lives that you can help fix, what are they and how can you and your business help fix them? This can be a great way to move the conversation along. Help them eliminate their pain and you will have not only a business partner you may even end up with a fried.
- Remain happy. A smile is much more attractive and inviting than a frown. Interestingly enough there is work that suggests that the facial movements of a frown imply higher cognitive activity. The point is the better your mood the more people will care to talk to you. Simple enough. Personally I will not engage in certain conversation if I am in a bad mood or just got out of a strenuous situation. This same dynamic is also why I like to put more important conversations at the front end of my day.
Business is relational. This is especially true for smaller businesses. When someone decides to do business with you they are not doing business with your business; they are doing business with you.
I hope you were able to take something away from this. Let me know if there is anything I missed or worth adding to the conversation. God bless!