Are extroverts the only people who can build a great network? How does an introvert go about winning friends and influencing people?
Have you ever felt that, in order to connect with others, you have to sacrifice your alone time and consign yourself to endless small talk? Sometimes it seems as if the best networkers never stop: They’re always talking and always on the go.
While it’s true that everyone needs to put energy into making new contacts and staying in touch with existing ones, you don’t have to become a socialite to build a great network.
You just have to understand YOUR introvert strengths and make the most of them.
So what are introverts’ networking strengths? Read on to find out!
This summer, I read Jennifer Khanweiler’s book Quiet Influence. The book shows introverts how they can use their natural gifts to influence the people around them. As I reflected on Khanweiler’s words, three of the strengths she highlighted jumped out at me as powerful networking assets.
Be an Expert.
First, if you’re introvert, you likely prefer depth over breadth and love to explore the topics that capture your interest. Whether or not you give yourself credit, you know a lot about what matters to you. You’re an expert.
You can use this strength to your advantage as you network. Before you meet new people, research the who and the what.
1) Research the top influencers and people with whom you want to connect.
Whenever you want to meet someone new at a conference, party, or networking event, take some time to learn about that person. Google him. Email friends for the inside scoop. Collect as much information about him as possible.
Then, look for points of connection.
All of the advance prep work you do will set you up for a good first meeting:
- You’ll have a storehouse of knowledge to pull from.
- And that knowledge will enable you to ask relevant, interesting questions.
- All your preparation will boost your confidence too.
2) Know your stuff.
What do the people at the event like to talk about? What gets them going?
Before any opportunity to connect, research the what. Read magazines and articles for current events. Study the books people like. Check out the popular websites. And equip yourself with ample conversational material.
Making yourself an expert before the event will help you build a great network.
Second, as an introvert, you’re a good listener. And you probably do listen more than the average Joe.
Too many people are dying to be listened to. So, as a willing and interested listener, you’ll always make a great conversational partner. Listening puts the spotlight on the other person and communicates appreciation.
And when people feel appreciated and respected, they enjoy their time with you.
If you want to build a great network and connect with anyone, listen to other people as if they are the most important people in the world to you.
The following three strategies can help you do just that.
1) Maintain eye contact.
People trust people who look them in the eye more than those who don’t. Furthermore, consistent eye contact shows others that you value them because people only pay attention to what matters to them.
Regular eye contact can be very good for any relationship. Just be careful not to stare.
2) Ask interesting questions.
An interesting question is one that gets at a person’s passion, dreams, and goals. Try asking:
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- If you could do anything, what would it be?
- What have you been enjoying lately?
- What’s something you’re excited about?
If someone’s already talking about a topic of interest, delve deeper with the following questions:
- Can you tell me more about ______?
- What got you interested in ______?
- How did ______ make you feel?
- What’s your favorite part about ______?
- What are you most proud of when it comes to ______?
It’s also wise to remember that small talk does have its place in every conversation. Be patient, and give every conversation time. Also keep in mind that not everyone will want to talk on a deeper level the first – or even second or third – time you connect.
3) Take notes.
One my favorite strategies for relating to other people is to study them and take notes.
Anytime I meet another person, I take mental – and sometimes written – notes on the following topics:
- What gets him excited
- What he’s wrestling with
- Interesting life experiences
- Our shared experiences, connections, and contacts
- And any other information that seems important to him
You can take any relationship further by learning more about a person and what matters to him. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Start communicating care and interest in others by studying them. The right questions can make all the difference in helping you make progress in this area. One great action step you can take today is to start a collection of great questions.
Lastly, as an introvert, you’re a good writer. Writing requires careful thought and well-crafted ideas. It’s an activity that happens, to a large degree, in isolation. These things come naturally to you.
Whenever you make a new contact, follow up within a couple days (1 to 5).
- Write a letter.
- Send the person an email.
- Or connect with him on social media.
Do whatever is most appropriate for the relationship and its context (work, social, spiritual, etc.).
And when you write, make use of the specifics you gleaned from your conversation. What special information did you learn?
If you listened well, you’ll be able to return to a point of connection or something that really mattered to the person.
If he had a pain point that he shared and you can provide him with a helpful resource or contact – do it. Any value you can add to the relationship will reinforce it and bolster it for the future.
Because writing takes time, letters, emails, and other kinds of written messages communicate an extra level of thoughtfulness and care. Furthermore, if you’re encouraging and helpful, people will appreciate their relationship with you all the more.
Make the most of your writing. Who do you need to contact right now?
What introvert strengths are helping you build a great network?