Shyness or ‘discomfort’ around other people need not be an obstacle when it comes to networking successfully.
Despite perceptions to the contrary, introverted people often have better networking skills than so-called ‘people persons’ – whether they’re in the job market, self-employed or business owners who need to drum up more business. Succeeding professionally now more than ever depends on how well you connect with other people, rather than being the centre of attention. Here’s how introverts can become better networkers:
Be a good listener
Business Network International (BNI) New Zealand National Director, Graham Southwell says the good news is that introverts already possess the most valuable networking skill; they’re good listeners and they tend to ask questions later – that’s the most important quality when it comes to building long-term, profitable relationships. “Listening and asking questions puts the introverted person in a perfect, non-threatening position to offer advice or help when it comes to solving problems. Gregarious people like to talk – usually about themselves – and that’s why, as a rule, they have to work harder to make good networkers,” Southwell says.
Overcome the ‘initiating conversation’ hump
“What will I say?” is a question that articulates some shy people’s biggest fear: walking up to a total stranger and starting up a conversation. There are a number of ways to overcome this. Firstly, don’t be afraid to break the ice with simple statements like: ‘Winter’s really making itself felt, isn’t it?’ When attending functions or business mixers, volunteer to be a host. This makes you more official, so it’s natural to greet people and welcome them to the event. It only takes three or four words to make that breakthrough.
The author of Networking For Everyone, Michelle Tullier, says shy people can motivate themselves by getting competitive. “Try to remember lots of people, who aren’t half as capable, qualified, talented and nice as you are advancing simply because they connect with others and make themselves visible,” says Southwell.
Choose events carefully
Finally, attending events, such as interactive seminars and workshops, or structured networking events with an agenda for schmoosing are a good places to start your networking game.