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Professional Networking: Introverts With An Advantage
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Professional Networking: Introverts With An Advantage - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Introverts With An Advantage

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Introverts With An Advantage

Introversion is a theme we keep coming back to, and for good reason. A recent movement shedding light on the needs of introverts in the professional world, thanks largely to Susan Cain’s resonant book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, added to greater attention to diversity in the workplace has made us all aware of the value introverts bring to their organizations. Because introversion is still in the process of being understood by extroverts, it’s worth examining the many different angles of a complicated dynamic, if only because it helps us all feel better about where (and with whom) we work.

Nearly three years ago, we offered networking pointers for shy people (it’s still a good list; you should check it out!), and while there is often overlap between shyness and introversion, they are different traits. There are many people who are shy and extroverted; there are many others who are not at all shy but introverted.

Shyness has mostly to do with discomfort around strangers, while introversion has to do with the need to be away from people in order to recharge. Non-shy extroverts thrive in networking settings, because they get charged up when they’re around others. It’s when they’re by themselves that their energy reserves begin to drain. Introverts feel this energy drain the moment they’re in a networking situation. The hardiest of them, the ones who’ve learned to function well in such settings despite their makeup, power through because they’ve learned to play the game, learned how to behave like an extrovert in a world that favors extroverts.

However, recent research seems to indicate that an introvert’s manner of networking (that is, of interpersonal connection) may make them better at networking. In an article for Quartz, Davis Burkus, an associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University, says, “Better connections come from from deeper conversations. And those deeper conversations are more welcomed by introverts. So while they might not feel like working the room, introverts may be better networkers over the long-term than their extroverted counterparts precisely because they don’t work the room. Instead, they stick to just a few conversations and go deeper.”

Burkus explains that introverts seek more than surface-level getting-to-know-you. Back stories, motivations, passions, and obstacles: these provide for multiple points of connection, which are called multiplex ties. If you work your way to the literal fringes of a networking event and find yourself engaged in fewer conversations that last longer, you know how this goes. Perhaps a small group hooks you in, but never gets past chit chat. You look for an escape, anything to get away from more talk about lease occupancy rates in your business district. Then somehow, you find someone who wants to know what your personal challenges are in your professional role. Or someone who is willing to share the same about him- or herself.

These connections increase trust, which increases the likelihood that new ideas and fresh information might be shared.

In an article on Forbes.com, Falon Fatemi shares her five habits of highly successful networkers, and there’s some correlation with this concept. Her #2 is “Take time to observe.” Although her emphasis is on observing the leadership skills of people you admire, in the context of a networking event, the object is often to be observed by others, but the introvert’s inclination to observe others, either from afar or while in conversation, gives others what they want: attention. Meanwhile, it leads to better understanding of others, which points to better engagement and greater likelihood of hitting those multiplex ties.

Fatemi also shares a kind of flipside: the value of weak ties, about which we have also explored. Here is where the introvert may have the disadvantage, but weak ties can be formed even in an introvert’s style of getting to know someone. You may spend time engaging in substantive conversation and find not very much in common with someone, but you’ve spent the time actually getting to know someone,which is far more likely to result in a lasting connection, even if that connection may not be very deep. These weaker ties are worth nurturing, and nurturing weak ties means forming real relationships.

For these reasons, networking events may be an incredible stress on your psyche, but while they are a huge social challenge for introverts like you, you can at least know that you may actually be better at contributing something meaningful. Your networks can be stronger because of your need for deeper connection.

Reference links:
Quartz: https://work.qz.com/1277113/networking-events-why-introverts-might-actually-be-better-at-them
Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2018/05/15/5-habits-of-highly-successful-female-networkers

 

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Professional Networking: Introverts With An Advantage - Executive Leadership Articles

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