For many people, business networking comes easily, naturally. It’s no different from any other social activity and they excel at it.
Me…not so much. At least on the inside. On the outside, anyone who’s met me at a business networking event assumes that I’m one of those people that takes to having conversations with complete strangers like a fish takes to water.
But the reality is, that the whole idea of talking to strangers makes me nervous. In fact, it takes a great deal of my energy and I’m usually drained by the time the event is over.
I’ve often wondered how it can be possible that I love speaking in public, doesn’t matter how large the audience is, the bigger the better. And yet, one on one communication can be so difficult. Then a friend pointed out to me that it is possible to be a shy extrovert.
Introvert…Extrovert…Shy…(wait, what’s the opposite of shy, uh, not shy?) Forward. Yes, that’s it, forward.
An introvert can be forward and an extrovert can be shy. They are not mutually exclusive terms. Dictionary.com has an example sentence: “Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone.” An extrovert is concerned with communication outside themselves. An introvert on the other hand is inwardly aware, a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.
Okay, so if you’re buying this so far, what does it mean in terms of business networking.
It’s important to understand your communication style and personality traits so that you can be effective in your business networking. If you find the activity of going into a room of strangers for the express purpose of introducing yourself in order to make connections for your business a fate worse than a Backstreet Boys reunion concert, consider that you may in fact be shy. Being shy “implies a constitutional shrinking from contact or close association with others, together with a wish to escape notice.” That makes perfect sense to me because I know that I’m very, very good at intentionally going unnoticed. I can blend in and no one even knows I’m there. But, this doesn’t serve my business networking.
The whole point of business networking is to forge connections with the express purpose of making beneficial relationships. N’est ce pas?
Instead of wishing the earth would open up and swallow you whole, those of you (like me) who are shy, should consider business networking as an opportunity to help others who need your expertise. As an entrepreneur, you probably went into business for yourself for many reasons, not the least of which was because you could help people with your knowledge and ideas. You feel passionate about your message or movement and know you can make a difference if you make enough of the right connections.
Keep in mind your higher purpose when the flight response kicks in and know that you are business networking not for yourself but for the people who are served by your business knowledge.
Now, if you’re forward, you don’t need to read this post, other than to feel some compassion for those of us who prefer to go unnoticed. It can be painful to find yourself out of your comfort zone. But a willingness to challenge yourself to do just that helps you grow as a person and ultimately accomplish more of your goals. If you’re an introvert…well, I’m sorry. There’s no cure for that. Move along.
So take it from someone who always described herself as “slow to warm up”, a shift in mindset can make a huge difference in how a shy extrovert looks at business networking.