Devora Zack wrote “Networking For People Who Hate Networking” to help introverts improve their network skills. She offers a number of insights along with several worksheets, checklists, and exercises to help you prepare, practice, and reflect.
Devora Zack on Introverts vs. Extroverts
|reflective: think to talk.||verbal: talk to think.|
|focused: go deep.||expansive: go wide.|
|self-reliant: energize alone.||social: energize with others.|
A key point is that interaction is draining for introverts while it is energizing for extroverts, so that at the beginning of an event they may start out with roughly equal energy levels the extrovert be much more engaged in the middle of the event while the introvert will be getting very tired.
It can also be tiring–and confusing–for an introvert when an extrovert starts to “think out loud.”
“The little girl had the making of a poet in her who, being told to be sure of her meaning before she spoke, said: ‘How can I know what I think till I see what I say?'”
Graham Wallas in The Art of Thought, 1926
Connect vs. Collect
I agree with Zack it’s a mistake to judge the value of a networking event by the number of folks you introduced yourself to or had a shallow conversation. I think extroverts are better at brokerage, at bridging connections between people who don’t know each other–but should.
Five Networking Tips for Introverts
Devora Zack offers a number of suggestions for introverts to manage themselves at a networking event and follow through on conversations and potential business relationships. Here were my top five–admittedly an extrovert’s perspective on what an introvert might find most valuable.
- Arrive early: fewer people less likely to feel overwhelmed.
- Go with a friend: a “workout buddy” means you are less likely to back out.
- Smile: it invites conversation, projects confidence and requires no talking.
- Write it down: one line summary of conversation and any follow up
- Follow up in writing: personalize and make it useful for them
When Things Go Wrong
During an event
- Don’t think: How could this happen?
- Do ask yourself: What can I learn?
Developing any new skill involves making mistakes and Zack offers a number of exercises and checklists to help introverts move out of their comfort zone. This was one she offered that I thought was the top level framing to retain when something does not go according to plan. One rule I use in reflecting on an event or situation is not to dwell on a past mistake but reframe as a plan for the future:
- Don’t tell yourself: If only I had …
- Commit to yourself: Next time I will …
Three Insights for Introverts in Dealing with Extroverts
- If you want lunch one-on-one with an extrovert, make that clear. She is as likely as not to bring a friend spontaneously.
- Don’t ask an extrovert a simple, yet optional, question when you are on deadline. You may be treated to a lengthy exposition and have only yourself to bring.
- Perhaps you have a colleague who expresses a strong opinion only to completely discount it the next day. Rather than label that person unreliable, recognize that he may have simply been speaking to discern his own opinion.
As an extrovert I have certainly disappointed my introverted friends, co-workers, and clients with all of these disconnects and several others.
Three Insights for Extroverts in Dealing with Introverts
- Silence from an introvert does not indicate dislike for an idea. She could be thinking it over.
- When faced with a quiet person, do not ask, “What’s his problem?” You may be in the presence of an introvert who is focused inward and simply does not have anything to say at the moment.
- Why does your colleague stick so stubbornly to his opinions? Because introverts ponder and commit to ideas before speaking, it takes more effort to change their minds. Provide time to recalibrate before requesting a response.
Because I am strongly extroverted I have to be especially on guard not to interrupt the thought process of an introvert who is reflecting before speaking. What can feel to me like an unbearable silence is a thoughtful pause to them. The third point is also important in any sales situation, many introverts are unwilling to expose their thinking before they have reached a conclusion and pushing for a decision when they feel it’s premature can poison current and future business possibilities. You can point to likely consequences of delay that are embedded in a situation or will flow from inaction or sticking with the status quo. But pushing them for an answer because you want to understand “where they are” is most often a mistake.
We try to make both Bootstrapper Breakfasts® and Silicon Valley Cofounder Academy events friendly for introverts. We focus on small group discussions with a designated facilitator to tamp down the extroverts and ask questions to draw out the introverts. I have had to practice counting to ten, and in some cases to twenty, in conversations with certain clients who are thoughtful and want to consider thoughtfully before answering. The flip side is that I have no problem writing “the bad version” of an email, presentation, or proposal just to help kickstart the process.
If you are trying got get better at networking Devora Zack’s “Networking For People Who Hate Networking” is worth reading.