“Every time we stomp down our introverted nature, we crush part of our soul in the process.” Michaela Chung
When you’re an introvert, the word networking can place a deep-seated fear inside of you.
Maybe you imagine yourself anxiously standing on the edge of a noisy room full of people you don’t know, as they chat merrily away without even noticing you.
Or maybe your networking nightmare is making painful small talk with people you feel you have nothing in common trying to be someone you’re not to form some kind of connection.
Or could it be the dreaded fear of having to talk at length about yourself to people who aren’t listening?
Whatever your fears, you’re not alone. Research by the Myers Briggs organization suggest that introverts compose up to 50% of the population and in roughly equal measure of males and females and at some point or other in our lives we all want to form more connections with others (http://introvertzone.com/ratio-of-introverts)
There’s room for all of us, whether introverted, extroverted or ambiverted to find our own unique way to give and receive support from others without feeling overwhelmed or compromising on who we are.
1. Claim your word
If the word ‘networking’ fills you with negative connotations, it will be an uphill journey before you start. So change the word and notice your mindset change with it.
Consider what word accurately describes an activity that sounds genuinely appealing to you with the same objective as networking. Maybe for you it’s ‘connecting’ or ‘cultivating relationships’. Once you’ve found what feels right notice the energetic impact this switch can have.
2. Find your why
Many of us step into the world of networking because we think we should. Coming from a place of having to inevitably feels like a tedious chore rather than a meaningful activity and of course reduces our energy and enthusiasm towards engaging in it.
Stop and consider what you are trying to achieve? How does connecting with others help you to achieve this? If you can’t think of a reason, then maybe you have all the support you need right now. If you’ve found your why, keep hold of it, let it energise you and keep revisiting it to make sure the actions you take truly support you with this.
3. Make it meaningful
Networking often has the connotation of receiving from others but deep down we all know this can only be sustained by making it a two way flow of good will. This is the basis of all meaningful relationships and why should your network be any different? It’s easy to drain yourself by giving too much but focus on giving small meaningful support to people in your network and the connections you make will thrive.
4. Consider what feels natural
Maybe you’re at your happiest connecting 1:1 with others in person, through words online or by the telephone. There’s no right or wrong way to connect with others and the joy of finding your way is that it will feel more natural, require less of your precious energy, feel more genuine and ultimately be more rewarding.
Be realistic on how much time you spend connecting with others. As an introvert, you get energy from being on your own so make sure you plan in some down time once you’ve done some connecting or you will end up depleted.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you have to forfeit connection with others or compromise on who you are. You can reap the beautiful benefits that come from building a supportive and like minded community around you by choosing to befriend your introversion and find your way to create meaningful connections with others.