An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

Are you are on LinkedIn?  (I remember when that question made my skin crawl).  If you are, and if you’re a member of the SpeakerMatch group, then you can access this thread which is where this mini-guide (unknowingly) got its start.

It began with an observation (well, more like a gripe) I’d made about the speaking industry showing a bias toward extroverted speakers.

As an introvert who aspires to speak professionally, I wanted to explore the intersection of introverts and public speaking.  A rich and interesting discussion got going.  I learned a lot.

Then I asked a new question, about introverts and networking.  What’s the best way to do it?  What are tips or helpful ideas?  I posted the question from the hotel room of a large conference center in DC.  I was attending a multi-day seminar with lots of opportunities to connect.  I wanted to make the most of it, enjoyably.  So I asked for help, and I got it.

I’m so grateful to the very generous people listed at the end of this post who shared their wisdom.  The insights and advice they offered helped me recognize a natural, simple, authentic 3-step approach to networking that feels good and is effective, too:

Step 1: Acting – This is playful, harmless imagining — acting “as if” you are among warm friends who accept and adore you completely.  Pretend/assume everyone you meet is out to bless you.  Inverting suspicion and cynicism warms you up from the inside, and makes you really attractive without you even saying a word.

Step 2: Being – As you imagine everyone around you to be kind benefactors, you feel the personal freedom and power to be yourself — fully, completely you.  There is never a good reason or excuse to hide who you really are.  If you are soft-spoken, and you flourish better with focused one-on-one conversations, rather than scattered multiple conversations (as I learned about myself), accept and include that aspect of yourself.  Being real attracts your resonant people, and repels your less harmonious ones.

Step 3: Connecting – The point of it all.  When you feel a spark of Possibility, Curiosity or Inspiration, the person you’re talking to is a keeper.  Personally, I prize quality over quantity.  Collecting contacts I won’t nurture isn’t time or energy well spent.  I talked to many, but realistically “kept” few.  It made my connections feel manageable, which makes me more inclined to actively do something with them.

Are you an introvert who has discovered ways to enjoy networking and make it feel natural and suitable to your temperament? Are you still fumbling a little? Please share in the comments below. Group-thinking really can improve and expand your thoughts about challenging situations.

Sending thanks to these very helpful people:

Warning: The comments start off with a little zest and zeal,
but don’t be alarmed — it all works out beautifully in the end.  :-)

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19 Responses to “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking”

  1. Barbara Kite Says:

    I wonder if all this attention on oneself can make it more anxious?

    I like the “accept and include” but even then you’re finding something difficult to accept and trying to re-work it. Why not just realize that it’s not about you. It’s about the gift you are giving. It’s about the person you are talking to and letting yourself be present with them, letting yourself truly see them (and be interested in THEM), letting them see you and understanding this is a human connection and we are more alike than different and stop worrying about yoursef.

    • LifeBlazing Says:

      “Why not just realize that it’s not about you. It’s about the gift you are giving.”

      And here is where we, respectfully, disagree Barbara. As I see it, I AM the gift that I give. So, yes, I most certainly do get to be included in the equation/connection.

      Ignoring oneself is not virtuous. And attending to oneself is not narcissistic. Self-aware people are the most generous listeners and companions you’ll ever find.

      My willingness to explore human interaction does not mean I know nothing about it. As a former hospice chaplain, my full-time objective was to offer loving and lavish presence, so I’m quite confident in my bedside abilities, and being with and seeing others.

      But in the interest of growth, and of venturing outside of my one-on-one comfort zone, I asked my question in a public forum and, for the most part, am very glad I did.

      Based on your responses on the LinkedIn thread, as well as here, it seems self-inquiry may be an area outside your comfort zone? I invite you to explore it :-)

  2. Barbara Kite Says:

    “Self inquiry” is at the base of all I do as an acting and speaking coach and has been the center of my life so I can understand more deeply all people I meet and work with.

    And the “gift” you are giving is to be helping the person you are communicating with and seeing if it is working, not checking yourself to see if you’re doing it right.

  3. Barbara Kite Says:

    What part of ‘You” is this gift? It is y our ability to give of yourself. Let’s say you want to help by making someone “comfortable” (a common assignment I give my clients). You must focuse on THEM and listen to THEM and be present with THEM and put yourself in THEIR shoes. And trust your instincts instead of having the attention on yourself checking to see if you are acting “as if” you are among friendds. Something like that really requires extensive coaching.

    • LifeBlazing Says:

      The primary thing I’ve observed you focus on is your viewpoint *about* people. Your actual engagement *with* people, ironically, seems to rank second to your teaching/coaching moments.

  4. Barbara Kite Says:

    I do what works and pass it on. All my clients and I find that if all the attention is on who I’m talking to then there is no time to think about me and I am full of the person I’m speaking to, understanding them, engaging with their very essence. Or so I’m told.

  5. Glen Cooper Says:

    Dear Barbara and “LifeBlazing,”

    Of course, I don’t personally know either of you, but it seems to me you are talking past each other, and not to each other. I’ll bet you are both good at giving the gift of self.

    “LifeBlazing” (is that what you want to be called here?), I thought Barbara made a good point when she said that it is all about the “gift you are giving.” But, Barbara, the “gift” is not just an abstract talent for listening and focusing on the other, but also of sharing yourself.

    In a paid session, where you are being paid to listen, it is NOT about you, but the situation being discussed here is a conference of peers. It’s networking, not coaching a client. So, I have to say that I also agree with “Lifeblazing” that self focus is okay.

    I’ll bet you are both good at what you do.

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Hi Glen!

      I’m openly Erika here, and everywhere :-) I just changed my avatar label to reflect that, too.

      Thank you so much for infusing diplomacy and context. You are absolutely correct that in paid/transactional contexts, my behavior and expectations are entirely different than in purely social ones. Peers and clients are two distinct groups, with very different parameters and dynamics. I appreciate your ability to see I was talking about peers.

  6. Terri Says:

    Nice post, thanks. “Inverting suspicion and cynicism warms you up from the inside…” how true. I have no further advice to offer, never have been very good at networking and have always tended to dread it but attaching my comfort to those “keepers” who seem to connect to my true self with their own is always the best part for me. This subject reminds me of a few quotes I thought I’d share….

    “Nerves and butterflies are fine – they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick.” ~Steve Bull

    “I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand.” ~Charles M. Schulz

    “People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock, and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet.” ~Sa’Di

    “The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.” ~Mignon McLaughlin

    “It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.” ~Sally Field

    “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” ~Robert H. Schuller

    “You will not find a soulmate in the quiet of your room. You must go to a noisy place and look in the quiet corners.” ~Robert Brault

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Ahhh, gotta love the Quote Garden… and the wonderful lady behind it :-) The ones you shared here, Terri, reflect gorgeously this human journey with all its bumps and bliss. (((hug)))

  7. Barbara Kite Says:

    Erika – I apologize. I now see my mistake. I see peers and clients as the same.

    • Erika Harris Says:

      When I went back and re-read your posts in the light of a coach/client relationship, I agree with your insights 100%, Barbara. Again, big thanks to Glen for helping us see our common ground.

  8. Lynnette Says:

    Hi Erika, as a self-proclaimed introvert who has had her share of challenges when it comes to connecting within a group, I like what you’ve written here and find it very helpful and empathetic. As always, you encourage us to use the gift of visioning in order to show up as we truly are in world that often misunderstands and is biased against introverts. Channeling benevolence from deep within so that we can be “full of ourselves” in the way that is pure is a remarkable way to move forward as we seek to create meaningful and lasting connections. After all, we must understand, connect and show empathy for ourselves so that we can truly be present for others.

    • Erika Harris Says:

      “After all, we must understand, connect and show empathy for ourselves so that we can truly be present for others.”

      Ain’t that the truth! Thanks, Lynnette, for your feedback. You know I value it and YOU :-)

  9. Niki Says:

    just BE & CONNECT-ing,…wow Erika,…that’s what I eventually come up with too in these recent times!
    you know, it’s sometimes soo funny & strange, in a *good way*,
    of how two persons, separated by hundreds thousands miles away,
    can have very similar thoughts & mindset :)

    btw, I have just subscribed to your Blog
    How can I almost forget that button “subscribe”, after all these times that I’ve always felt ‘connected’ very much everytime after I read your articles?? :D

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Niki, I agree. Our connection is sweet, tangible and not the least bit affected by geography :-) I’m thankful the internet brings Indonesia and Chicago closer together. XO

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