You're an introvert and that is not a bad thing! Introverts are wonderful people, who are deep thinkers, are full of creativity, and are great listeners, without which this country would not be where it is today.
Yet, if you are like me, you've got a dream (or maybe just a job description) that is contingent upon working and interacting with people on a daily basis. It's not that we don't like people, it's just that our main source of energy doesn't come from these interactions. So how can we make building connections a little easier? It's really not as hard as you may think if you follow these three guidelines that I've learned as I've built my business over the past year and a half.
Tip #1: Connecting Takes Energy.
When I think about great connectors, I imagine the guy or gal who shows up to an event and just works the room, going from person to person, laughing, smiling, and just having a grand ole time...leaving the event with even more energy than when he or she first arrived. This may be true of an extrovert, but it will never be true of an introvert. To do this, we are going to have to push ourselves to constantly be outside of our comfort zone, we are going to have to push ourselves to go from person to person, to interact and to communicate. This is going to drain us, and instead of leaving the event full of energy, we most likely will be leaving the event looking for a quite space far away from any living human being...and that is OK. In fact, I plan for it. I purposely place the quite work time into my calendar immediately following a social event. I know that it is going to take energy, but if I know that I'll be doing something that I love (alone work) after the event I gain the motivation to keep pushing through.
Tip #2: Plan for the Small Talk
I hate small talk! There is nothing more unnerving than thinking of attending a networking event where I am introducing myself over and over to people. Why is this? Honestly, I am scared spit-less that I'll run out of things to say, that the conversation will suddenly become awkward, and, as I've done in the past, I'll just walk away without any close to the conversation. Well, to say the least, this is not connecting with people and it sure as heck is not going to help my business. I've often heard that "if you are prepared you shall not fear," so one day I decided to do something about all these small talk frets. I did a little research and found some simple ways to ensure that I can keep the conversation rolling. Specifically, I do two things.
First, I memorized the acronym FORM. This stands for family, organization, recreation and mission. It is a simple reminder of small talk subjects that I can bring up. Start with any letter, and once the conversation starts to slow down, move to another letter. For example, you may start by asking someone where he/she works and what he/she does there, then follow up these questions by asking if they have any family in town, or what they like to do in their free time (recreation).
Second, I came across Bob Burg's 10 networking questions and memorized these too. Now, I've got at least 14 questions in mind, at all times, that I can ask. I cannot say that it never gets awkward anymore, but since I'm prepared it has been much easier to talk myself into going to the networking events.
Tip #3: Get Deep Fast
Many people mistakenly believe that introverts simply don't like or feel comfortable being around people. This is actually not true. One of the greatest sources of energy for introverts is meaningful and thought-provoking conversations with people and it is for this reason that introverts actually make great connectors. Instead of shying away from social events, look at social events as a chance to engage in deep thought with another person. To do this, start with some simple small talk questions (such as FORM), then as soon as possible move to what our own Minnesotan Dr. Allan Zimmerman calls a "brave question," that is a question that goes beyond the superficial and gets you into deeper and more meaningful conversations. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I like something simple and easy to remember, such as the dream, sing, cry strategy.
What do you dream about? That is, what do you want to get out of life, what is your end goal, where are you headed?
What do you sing about? What is going on right now in your life (or your business) that you are just so excited about that you could shout it out loud in song? What have been your recent wins, your victories, your successes?
What do you cry about? What is it in life (or business) that is driving you nuts, that keeps you up at night that you'd just like to shed a tear or thousand over?
Of course, there is much more that could be said on the topic of helping introverts connect. I hope that you find these three tips valuable and helpful in your endeavors to connect with others...I certainly have!
Jason Hunt is a speaker and trainer who help people see leadership differently. He focuses on developing influence with teams, with yourself or with others in order to have a greater positive impact upon this world.