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Networking and the Introvert: A How-To Guide 

From an introvert’s perspective, networking is a bit like diving 100 feet into a tiny pool of cold water, minus the ability to swim.  Thanks, but no thanks.  And who could blame you?  An introvert’s comfort zone doesn’t include chatting with strangers. 

Networking doesn’t have to be a stress-fest for introverts.  By making a few changes in how you think and what you do, you can transform your feelings of dread into confidence.  Read on for some ideas about how to painlessly transition into the world of networking: 

Change your definition.  Many people think of networking as social events or meetings where strangers get together.  Networking can also involve contacting friends and family.  Start with what feels comfortable for you. 

Be yourself.  Introverts may feel they have to pretend to be extraverts in a networking setting.  You do need to break through your natural tendency to keep to yourself, but authenticity goes a lot further than phoniness.  

Put away your sales pitch.  Networking is about building connections, not landing a sale the first time you meet someone.  As long as you’re prepared to explain your business concisely and answer questions, that’s good enough. 

Pick and choose.  Networking is less overwhelming when you have a focus and a purpose. Decide what you want to achieve, and direct your energy toward building relationships with people who can help you and vice versa. 

Keep it simple.  You don’t have to find the smartest or funniest things to say.  Use what’s around you to start a simple conversation.  You might make a comment about the event’s setting, a talk someone gave, etc. 

Ask questions.  A surefire way to get a conversation going is to ask a question.  This strategy has the added bonus that people appreciate it when you show an interest in them. 

Practice.  Opportunities for boosting your confidence level in talking with strangers are all around you.  Try making small talk with a cashier, or compliment someone’s outfit on an elevator.  The more you talk to strangers, the easier it gets. 

Turn off your inner spotlight.  Shy people tend to focus on how they think they appear to others.  Worrying about how you think you’re coming across distracts you from being able to fully engage with others.  Save the self-scrutiny for after the event. 

Dismantle your excuses.  There’s something more important you have to do than go to an event.  It’s too far to go.  It’s not worth your time.  You’ll go next time.  Do any of these sound familiar? 

Excuses provide short-term relief—hooray, I’m not going!—but they’ll hold you back in the long run.  Write down some reminders of why you need to network.  Pull out your list and use it to get yourself back on track when your start dragging your feet. 

 Let go of mistakes. Stumbling over words or having your mind go blank in the middle of a sentence can bring your networking momentum to a screeching halt.  The more you dwell on it, the less likely you are to recover and get back into full networking mode.  A verbal fumble doesn’t mean you’re a poor speaker; it just means you’re human.  Shrug it off and carry on.

This article was written by Donna Willon who is known as the First Lady of networking in the lower mainland. Please go to her link for more information.