If you are dreading this time of the year, all the never-ending merriment and jolly schmoozing, you are probably an introvert. Throughout your life you’ve probably received lots of “helpful” advice such as this: “You just need to come out of your shell.” Really? Or, perhaps someone gave you this nugget: “Enjoy yourself, these people won’t bite”. Armed with this “awesome” advice, you go to the party, walk up to a group, say hi, and try to make small talk. They respond by giving you a ‘why are you talking to me’ look. That sure feels like they bite!
These networking tips for introverts will take that bite out of holiday networking. Actually, these are good tips for anyone at any time of year!
1. Don’t go alone
Walking into a party or reception is way WAY harder if you are doing it alone. Go with someone, but have a conversation beforehand to set some guidelines. It does absolutely no good if your wingman or woman veers off into the great blue yonder as soon as you get to the event. Choose a tag teammate who understands they are your backup when needed.
2. You don’t have to go with an extrovert
Some people like going with a person who can make easy banter and who will talk to anyone, but that’s not necessary. Two introverts can go together, use the other tips listed below, and make a success of the night.
3. Going solo is doable
If you have to go solo to the event, tell yourself, I can do this, yes I can…! Think Handy Manny. Give yourself permission to put on a Pretend-Extrovert Hat while you are at the party. We aren’t suggesting you change your personality—way too hard, plus you like yourself the way you are. Remember being an introvert is not a disease, it’s a preference in the way you prefer to interact with people.
4. Do a 180
We were told a great story by a guy who was a total introvert and hated social events. One day he decided he couldn’t stand it anymore, feeling so awkward and uncomfortable so he did the exact opposite of what he would normally do. Typically he would stand against the wall and watch people. With his new strategy in mind he did the opposite. He went over and talked to these people he usually just watched. If people came over to him, instead of hoping that the conversation would end soon, he tried to keep the conversation going. It’s a non-emotional, uncomplicated way to change behaviour for a short period of time.
5. Don’t be too invested in the outcome
Most people when they approach someone, want that connection to be a total win—the conversation was awesome, they liked me, they really liked me, and maybe it’s the start of a beautiful friendship. Not every connection is a Casablanca moment— “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine…”
6. Come early
If you get to the event early (but not the first person there!) it’s easier to seek out people and start a conversation. When the room is packed it becomes much more intimidating.
7. Ask questions that you might think are too obvious
Starting a conversation with someone becomes way too stressful if you are trying to have a deep meaningful conversation in the first few minutes. Relax, and ask the obvious questions: “How do you know the host?”, “What do you do?’ If it’s a business event, exchange cards and then you have something to talk about. “Ron, so you are in the aerospace industry, I hear it’s booming in this region.”
8. Move if it’s too noisy
There’s nothing worse than being at a reception or party where it is so loud that you really are straining to speak and to hear what the other person has to say. Look around for a quieter spot, away from the 80’s cover band or the group of laughing hyenas.
9. Leave earlier than later
That doesn’t mean after 15 minutes you escape, but since introverts find socializing draining, the best idea is to leave on a high note, for example after a good conversation. It will be your last memory of the evening and it will be a good one.
10. Tell yourself the Pretend-Extrovert Hat looks good on you
Instead of listening to the annoying voice in your head saying you look like an idiot tell yourself : “This Pretend-Extrovert Hat fits me pretty nicely. It’s kind of fun playing the happy, outgoing extrovert who is relaxed and simply enjoys meeting people—but thank goodness I can ditch that hat as soon as this party is over and get some quiet time.”
-Written by Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, business networking speakers and authors of Work The Pond! Shepa Learning Company
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Image: G. Hallgren-Rezac