Once upon a time, in a far,far land, there lived a shy young girl who never spoke to anybody. Talking to people was her worst fear and she preferred being in solitude for long hours instead of catching up with a friend. People called her 'cold' and even 'arrogant'. But, she could not get over her inability to trust people for she was told, "Never talk to strangers". As she grew up, she spoke to lesser and lesser people. In fact, she had more fingers on her right hand than she had friends. Then one day, a fairy godmother waved her magic wand and just like that, everyone wanted to talk to her and she wanted to talk to everyone. Soon, she became famous for her charm and her ease with words. There was nobody she ever had a problem striking a conversation with.
That girl was me. And, I may have tweaked that story a little bit. Well, there was no fairy and it didn't take a day for me transform from an introvert to an extrovert. It took weeks. I won't lie to you and tell you that I worked on it for months. It wasn't as hard as I had thought it would be. You wouldn't believe, but I never even greeted anyone with a "Hi" except yes, my handful friends. I never smiled at anyone and never made an eye-contact. I had too many bad experiences since a child and resigned to a life of being a social recluse, because I deemed them all to be selfish people who had no regard for each other's emotions. Then one day, I came to realize that I wasn't quite happy with the life I was living and had several episodes of depression. My point of inflection was when I decided that I had enough of people letting me down and that I'd be stronger. So, I went to a club alone. That was my little adventure. I took a lot of guts, but, I did it nevertheless. My life was never the same after that. I spoke to about a handful of boys who immediately decided to invite me to their brotherhood because I was 'cool'. In the next few months, I spoke to friends of friends and eventually more people. I love humor and I love to laugh. Plus, I hadn't quite had a laugh in years. Soon, I discovered my 'witty charming' side. I met some of the loveliest people that I count as real friends and also, some douche-bags. Life isn't a fairytale, so I figured I could toughen up and with the expectation of nothing, I could treat myself to a little time when all I did was laugh and talk to people. It's not always rosy because you meet creeps too, but then that is how you learn and grow up. Today, I no longer have a problem going out alone. I KNOW I can look out for myself.
The point of my little story is that everyone needs to network. I have known many people trying to build personal relationships so they can get more clients for their business. Or like me, have made some great friends that make living life a lot more fun. On the other hand, networking has also brought a change in my outlook towards life. I no longer hesitate to ask what I want, speak my mind, put up a point, take my own decisions and discuss with others when I need an opinion. And, you know what? I still take out time for myself so I get enough space for myself. People are amazed when I tell them that I am a writer. I guess, the norm for the writers is to be introverted. But, my transformation explains my new-found attitude. In fact, I see myself as a life coach 10 years down the line. Before giving networking tips for introverts reading this article, I just want to let you know that you don't need to force yourself because it isn't as bad as you think. I just want you to have fun when you ARE making the effort to go out there and network with other people. So, here it goes.
Networking Tips for Introverts
Have No Fear: Have you ever wondered that the only thing that has held you back from networking with other people and the reason for your introverted nature is, perhaps, your fear? It may be your fear of getting hurt, being let down, fear of change or fear of society. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." Isn't it true? If you don't stop fearing, you won't start living fully. There is no big deal about networking with people. Nobody is going to think you are a prick. If you think someone is a prick, don't stick around with them. Simple. At least take the first step, though.
Make Your Presence Felt: Just standing among a group of people, holding your drink, does not make you an extrovert. My networking tips for introverts are aimed at making them more noticeable among business or social circles for quick and easy networking with a large number of people. You need to get out there and let people know you are there more than anyone else. Nobody will eat you up if you voice your opinions. Don't agree with people just to fit in. In fact, different stories and perceptions are always welcomed by social butterflies. Talk aloud and clear. If the music is too loud, it's best to keep the conversation short or wait for the volume to be turned low. If someone intentionally tries to sideline you when you talk, ignore the jerk and move on to someone who is not so insecure or air-headed. There is a thing or two that gay men can teach you. One of my friends distastefully pointed out, "Darling, AT LEAST carry your business cards if you are meeting people. And put them in a fancy but sophisticated holder". Was I embarrassed? Hell, yeah! I was.
Use Technology: Your Facebook account is way more useful than playing those online games or loathing your life reading other people's statuses and looking at their pretty pictures. When you meet someone, make an effort to connect with them on social networking sites. If your purpose is business networking, there are many websites dedicated to the cause. Ask people whether they have networking accounts or Google them. Then, friend them so you can later catch up for an online chat. This way people will be reminded of your meeting and there will be less chances of those awkward moments when people fail to recognize you. Drop in a message once in a while that isn't just a one-liner. Attach a funny video or type a hilarious joke you heard the other day. In today's world, you can no more give the excuse of time or distance to communicate with others.
Be a Star!: When you walk in to a room full of people, hold your head high while smiling and stand for 5 seconds to take in the surroundings before you proceed to greet someone. This way, you won't mix up with the crowd the minute you walk in. People often notice who is coming in and taking 5 seconds of your time will allow you to ease your nerves while other people take note of your presence. Also, 5 seconds won't make you look like you are waiting for someone to strike a conversation. Walk in feeling like you are a million bucks and others will see you the same way. Keep yourself graceful. When you talk to people, talk about yourself like you have an interesting life and work at a respectable designation with an amazing company. Don't be tempted to whine or oversell yourself. Give limited information so business networking people perceive you as someone useful. Don't act like a diva though.
Do Your Homework: If you are attending an important workshop, business or social gathering and you have your own motives which I believe are success and to get ahead, do a little research on who is to be expected at the occasion. This will help you channelize your energy networking with people that help you climb the ladder. Try to gather information on who they are or what they do. As I said, use technology my friend! Also, researching about the nature of the event will help you dress accordingly so you don't look like an outsider among the crowd.
Keep it Comfy: I know exactly how hard it is for an introvert to meet new people and actually talk to them. Been there, done that. But, your first step as a newbie is the most difficult one - when you talk to someone and develop a real connection. From there on, it is a piece of cake. There are many people you will connect with at some level and the positive response is a huge ego-booster to motivate you to network more. If you don't have anything to talk about, one of the sure-fire ways is to talk about hot topics being discussed in the group you are talking about. If you don't have an idea, do the following: a) listen to people to get clued in, b) corner someone and ask what's the buzz about, or c) make use of your smart-phone for a quick look at the latest trends in industries that the people belong to. If you only function with a little alcohol to put you to ease, don't make the social faux pas of getting drunk. It's a strict no-no. You have to resist it.
Just for Laughs: Laughter is the best medicine. Who likes humor? You, me, everybody!!! Sharing a little laugh with someone definitely breaks the ice and you could even have inside jokes with people you can laugh about when you meet them again. Plus, I found talking to people and laughing with them very therapeutic. The friends that I have made have often helped me cope with the stress that I was previously dealing with alone. Even, if you don't think networking will do you any good, just get up and get dressed, go out and meet new people like a little challenge to yourself. It may just help you loosen up a bit after a week of dodging problems. Networking definitely makes you an expert of the art. When you are out at the crime scene is when you will learn the best.
Smiley Face: It is not that difficult to smile. I realized that often by smiling at someone I could brighten up a few moments of their life. It also makes you seem warm and approachable. If you don't smile, people will often think that you are snobbish. Smiling also exudes confidence. Keep it real and let it show in your eyes. A fake smile can be sensed from miles away and can have a countereffect. If you are a woman, tilt your chin down and look upwards at the person you are conversing with while smiling. Don't grin. It makes your eyes appear larger while your lips look smaller and makes you look innocent like a child. Occasionally look down for 3 seconds and look up, then smile like you are trying hard to stop yourself from breaking in to a grin. Your cheekbones will look more prominent. Try it to see its effect on people. A man should smile enough that his crow lines crease. Don't smirk. Give a huge grin like you had the best moment of your life before showing up at the place. It should look natural and pure. After a while, your facial muscles will automatically react in this fashion, in a social setting, around people.
Click More: Absolutely pun intended, get yourself clicked more with other people. When the photographs are uploaded on a social networking site, a lot of people will see them and start to think that you were an important part of the group you got your pictures clicked with. More pictures = more presence. Upload some of your own too and try to appear in as many pictures as you can. Sadly, these days a person's networking quotient is judged by how many profiles he/she is linked to on Facebook or Twitter. The other way of 'clicking more' is that you try to build a rapport more with people. Ensure that when you meet a lot of people in a group or at an event, you know at least 4-5 of them well enough to exchange contact information for future invitations.
You are Judged by Your Company: Everyone likes to hang out with people who are like them. So, if you want to be perceived as someone who is an extrovert, charming, friendly and has a huge network of people, you need to befriend the likes. This was also probably why nobody ever doubted that I was an introvert. Get your self wingmen that will introduce you to a lot of people. This is how you get to interact with more people. Else, trying to talk to random strangers is often regarded as pure nasty. Also, avoid sticking to members of the opposite gender if you don't want to come across as a serial flirt who means no business. Also, dress similarly to the person who has a high regard in social circles. This is called power dressing. Just don't look like a clone.
Find Common Grounds: I hate to break it to you, but... you are NOT AN ALIEN! Life can be so unfair. But, now that you know that you are an Earthling, you should probably also know that you are not entirely different from others. We are all the same, but, with variations. I used to think to myself all the time that I am not like other people. But, somewhere, you are. You are similar, but different. Like different colors and sizes of the same t-shirt. So, I am sure you have at least one common interest with just about any person in the room. If you don't ask, you won't know. So, ask. Talk. Besides, it isn't really hard to talk about something you both love, is it? Don't be afraid if even after 15 minutes into the conversation you don't hit it with the other person. Don't drag the conversation. Smile and excuse yourself so the next time you meet him/her, you can still greet each other with a smile.
Keep Your Cool: Being an ex-introvert, I can tell you this that you think people are very uncool and you don't like them for it, so you prefer not to talk to such low-life creatures. Your perceptions may change in the future and I am not the one who will convince you for it. But, when you are having a conversation with people and you don't agree with a certain notion, keep your cool. Keep sarcasm and anger at bay. Being rude or defensive is probably not the best thing to do when you are trying to get people to like you and talk to you. Yes, they have to like you. Else, you could talk to a million people without leaving an impression and your life won't be any different from it has already been. Think like a cool cat or a smooth scotch!
Always Remember: This is a trick of the trade. Carefully listen to people when they talk, smile and nod. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and they generally give out more information than they would like, once they start talking. Not only will you be able to judge them as well as your chemistry with them, you can improve your relationships by quoting things they said the last time you met them. People love knowing that someone cares about them and you will immediately gain their affection. They will trust you more and will welcome you with arms wide open to hang around with them. Invitations are a key to socializing and networking. However, do remember to quote only nice or interesting things they said. We are not on a personal war with anybody that you need to make them feel bad about themselves.
I hope I don't transform you into a monstrous social butterfly. Change is good. But, changing your actual temperament just to be one among the same people that you once loathed is not good. Don't lose yourself in the world of networking. It gets the best of most of us. You really don't need someone's approval. But, man is a social animal. We inhabit a community and if you really want to quickly grow, you can't do it alone. You need to have people around you - the good ones and the bad ones too. You won't learn if you don't make a mistake and you wouldn't make them unless you are sure there are people you can fall back on. If I can, so can you. These networking tips for introverts should definitely work for you, I am confident. Unless you have an anthropophobia in which case you need professional help buddy!