Even the word ‘networking’ makes me revert to my most classic, Liz Lemon-esque ‘blerg’ and, I know I’m not alone because it’s one of the most widely discussed topics and biggest challenges for introverts that I come across. Networking makes me think of an over-packed room full of speed-dating-style conversations – quite literally, it’s an introvert’s worst nightmare. Introverts are all about deep and meaningful conversations. We generally despise small talk. And the idea of being bustled through a room, trying to meet lots of people is, well… it’s blerg.
But, that’s the bad wrap that comes with networking. The plus side is that it’s the 21st century and it’s totally possible to find your own way to do it that feels great instead of gross, and means you make the kind of connections that work for you.
If the idea of networking to grow your business and share your work sends you running for the hills, here are 5 ways to network in your comfort zone.
Get clear on connections
Make a list of the types of people, their interests or businesses that they have and where they might hang out. Then you have a starting point and an intention of who you’d like to connect with, instead of going with a shotgun approach that could leave you feeling drained and defeated. Know who you’re looking for and don’t be surprised when they start popping up all over the place.
Decide on your ‘you:other people’ ratio
There’s a common misconception that introverts don’t like people. This simply isn’t true! We all (even extroverts) have a limit of how much interaction we’re cool with before we’re ready to go home to our PJ’s and Netflix marathons! Know your limits. Know if you can do two nights out a week and events, or if one a month the most you can handle. One-on-one is the perfect way to connect for introverts because we can get into really deep conversations, instead of trying to connect with a group of people at once (burn out alert!). Work out your you:other people ratio and then try to connect with people in that way.
Keep asking questions
Chances are, you’re more comfortable listening to another person than talking about yourself. It’s easy to keep a conversation going – even with a stranger – by asking them questions. And, if you’re not into small talk, ask them the kind of questions that get them talking about something they love. This will allow you to make a much deeper connection in a way that you feel comfortable and take the attention off you.
I used to get so mad at myself for going to an event or a meet up and not talking to about 90% of the people there. But, as soon as I accepted that I connected with the exact person or people I was meant to, I began to enjoy going out to meet people, instead of feeling guilty or awkward. If meeting 50 people in one night is daunting, just aim to meet one new person – who knows what it could lead to?
Forget about ‘networking’
I don’t think about networking as networking. Ever. If I do, it’s the quickest way to talk myself out of connecting with another human. And, guess what? We’re hardwired for connection. It’s not just about growing your business, or getting someone to buy your thing, it’s about living in the here and now and having a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The word ‘networking’ is almost like a bad 80’s revival – not unlike the scrunchie or the big hair. If you can simply think of it as building relationships with other incredible people who are doing amazing things, doesn’t that feel so much more comfortable and exciting?
Katherine Mackenzie-Smith is a life and business coach helping introverts understand themselves, create businesses that light them up, and cut through the noise to connect with the people who need to hear what they have to say. Connect with her at katherinemackenziesmith.com