“Introverts tend to be deep and reflective thinkers. They tend to be good at creative stuff. I don’t think it’s because they necessarily have some mysterious gene for creativity, but rather that creativity requires time spent alone, and introverts are good at that”.- Susan Cain
Let’s look at the experience of Marta, a young engineer in Spain. She was always top of her class, with a great intuition for problem-solving, so when she finished her degree she had no trouble finding a good job opportunity. The job interview was on Tuesday and she was nervous, not because she lacked confidence in her knowledge, but because she was a bit introverted.
The interview started well, the interviewer liked Marta’s profile because she fit what they were looking for, so when he saw that her only problem was her difficulty in connecting with others, he commented: «Don’t worry Marta if you are introverted or just don’t feel comfortable approaching strangers and starting a conversation, there are strategies you can put into practice to make it easier. In this company, we’re going to help you learn some smart ways to hone your skills in creating spontaneous interactions with people that will help you forge meaningful connections«.
Marta was lucky and found a company that values the importance of its employees’ connections as an important part of its assets.
This story teaches us that even if you feel that connections don’t come as naturally to you as they do to others, this should not stop you from establishing relationships that will help you evolve in your career.
INTROVERT VS EXTROVERT
You might think that most great connectors are inherently extroverted people: gregarious, life-of-the-party sorts of people. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the opposite. Some research estimates that introverts make up between one-third and one-half of the world’s population. But what does it mean to be an introvert?
“Research has shown that introverts have a preference for a different neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine. While dopamine focuses on external rewards, acetylcholine elicits feelings of satisfaction when turned inward, which explains the different preferences”.
There are a lot of definitions, but while introverts are energized by their inner thoughts and feelings, extroverts are fulfilled by focusing on other people and the outside world.
Extraversion and introversion aren’t static personality traits but occur on a spectrum, with ambiverts falling somewhere in the middle. Individuals who are moderately introverted or extroverted or who have characteristics of both personality types may be labelled ambiverts, a term that has yet to enjoy widespread popularity.
Some people are not sure if they are introverted or extroverted. Susan Cain (see above) has a test you can take on her website quietrev.com and it is really valuable.
WHAT STRATEGIES CAN I USE?
Being introverted is not the only reason people avoid interacting with others. Sometimes it’s because they think they have nothing valuable to add or because it takes them out of their comfort zone.
If you’re an introvert, take heart: it’s easier than you think. You might even do better than these loud extroverts if you put it into practice. For one thing, your quiet nature will naturally make you a better listener.
I want to give you some tips to make this easier for you:
1- Get a power anchor with an extrovert
We call «anchors» those people who are trusted advisors and the foundation upon which any successful community is built. Anchors are so important because they are your gateway to meeting other amazing people and set the stage for what others will think of you. An anchor can be anyone who is the cornerstone of what you want to do.
Connectors partner with these anchors to bridge the gap between their weaknesses and strengths, as well as to add value to the partnership and show that the person is legitimate. If you are an introvert, working with an extrovert can help you come out of your shell.
2- Plan your next meeting
To do this, prepare some talking points before you go so you’re not left empty-handed. This will give you a confidence boost and the downward momentum you need for any interaction you have.
3- Focus on value
When you realize how valuable your skills and experience can be to others, you feel more confident about engaging in conversations. Networking is about creating mutually beneficial connections, not necessarily focusing on what people can do for you. And knowing the value you can bring to the table helps you feel confident and more comfortable in building relationships.
4- Make weak ties
Weak ties are people you used to know, whom you may not have spoken to in years, such as a childhood neighbour or someone who worked with you at a company ten years ago. Weak ties move in different circles, learn different things, and have invariably made friends with other people, so they can offer us more effective access to new information and introduce us to other people.
But how do you reconnect with these weak ties? Reconnecting can be done online through email or official media, but it is always more effective if you can meet offline. Any excuse is valid: call to wish someone a happy birthday or reach out when visiting an old friend’s hometown. IMPORTANT, instead of asking them for help look for ways to help them.
5. Accept your nerves
Nervous? You’re alive. Like any skill, connecting takes practice. I, for one, have gotten better over time and, despite the nerves, stretching your limits one step at a time will help you get pretty good at that typical back-and-forth conversation when meeting new people.
Don’t forget who you are. Your introversion is part of who you are. It is the basis of your natural rhythm. It’s not something to overcome, but something to understand and work on.
There is nothing wrong with being introverted because it is a type of human nature, which often characterizes deep thinkers, which often makes it difficult for them to connect on a surface level, even if they are good at other skills.
Finally, dear reader, if you feel alone in the way you see and experience the world, feel free to contact me, to talk without pressure and work in tune with those natural rhythms and preferences that are the key to our quiet flourishing.
I will be happy to help you connect with my network and strengthen us together!
*** BEFORE YOU GO
Quote of the Week: “Each day comes bearing its gifts. Untie the ribbon”.- Ann Ruth Schabacker
The above article is a weekly summary of my thoughts on my work as a connector that is ready for leaders around the world.
You can also enjoy the Let’s Connect Live where I interview business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians and inspirational thinkers.
Jose Raul Vaquero is President of the documentalistas.org Foundation and Founder of clubimpulso.net which connects more than 100,000 professionals from 24 countries. For this work, he has been recognized by several governments and organizations. Finally, he’s also the Founder of the Young Politicians of the Americas community.