My Top 5 Tips For Introverted Entrepreneurs
We all know networking is a career necessity. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I started my business was "get out there and meet people." Thanks, mom, and dad for that. For an introverted gal, the idea of making the rounds at a cocktail party or dazzling at an endless stream of social lunch invitations sounded daunting! I used to break out in hives at the very thought of slapping on a smile and wandering around a room full of strangers shaking hands, laughing and exchanging business cards. If I somehow managed to talk myself through the front doors, I'd spend the entire evening hugging the walls and avoiding eye contact with people.
Overcoming shyness and combating those inner feelings that are keeping us from being at our best isn't always easy so I'm breaking down my top five tips for socializing as an introvert.
Tip 1: Have a Quota
Come up with a personal quota system that works for you. I used to feel guilty saying no to specific events, and I'd sit at home an agonize over whether or not I should have said yes to something instead of no. Having a quota helps take the guilt away when your calendar is overflowing, and you are craving some alone time. My quota is attending two events a month where I can get out and meet new people.
I also have a quota for each event I attend, to strike up a conversation with at least three different people. I love the quote by Susan Cain author of the New York Times Bestseller, Quite. In it, she writes " Don't think of it as networking think of it as seeking out kindred spirits." Since I adopted this mindset, networking has become so much easier for me.
Tip 2: Develop your conversation techniques
Dale Carnegie, the author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” always said that the best way to meet people is to get them talking about their favorite subject: themselves. When it comes to a great opening line, the best one can usually be formed as a compliment. "I like your shoes" works for me every time because it's usually true, I don't say that about just any shoe, and it often segways into a full conversation about where they were purchased, which season they're from, and how much they cost.
It's easy to start a conversation when you're not talking about yourself so set your party vibe to curious and show genuine interest in the other person you're talking to. Let your aim be to find out about that other person and stay present and engaged in the conversation.
Another helpful tip for being a good conversationalist is developing the art of storytelling. Stories are the basis of good conversation and the ethos of the human connection. Whether they are personal stories, client stories or silly anecdotes, stories help create an emotional impact with the people that you’re talking to. I’ve practiced my storytelling a lot, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a master at the craft, I have become more relaxed and natural during conversation when I learned how to flip the switch from facts to narratives.
Tip 3: Bring a plus one
Deciding to be a more friendly introvert than the one who hugs the walls and fiddles with their drink at an industry mixer can take a lot of "choo-choo" thinking (I think I can, I think I can.) I'd be lying if I didn't confess that on at least one occasion, I "choo-choo'ed" my way out of a downtown Minneapolis parking lot right before a mingling event. Having a security blanket in the form of a wing person can boost your confidence as well as your comfort level and ensure you actually make it through the front door of said mixer, so don't be afraid to bring a plus one!
Tip 4: Respect your energy
Introverts have a more limited ration of energy available for socializing, compared to our more extroverted counterparts. When we push past those reserves, we hit a tipping point where we go from being “fine” to “definitely not okay.” Most people don’t realize this about me, but I need a lot of downtime. Even in my personal life, I prefer small get-togethers over big elaborate parties. I've become better over time at recognizing those small clues that I'm headed into the throes of introvert overload and about to experience a hangover. Moderation is critical, and learning how to recharge your mental batteries with some self-love and solitude techniques and doing so on a regular basis is vital, so make sure that when you do show up, you've rested and regrouped and have the energy to do so because the people we meet deserve this from us.
Tip 5: Change your mindset
Networking can seem like it requires selling yourself or working your way around a room, but the best networkers know it’s really about developing valuable relationships. Setting yourself up with this small shift in mindset will make connecting with people feel a lot less forced.
Just because you’re an introvert, doesn’t give you an excuse to be invisible. Flex your extroverted muscles and get out there and start meeting new people. Attend networking events, get over your fear of public speaking at a ToastMasters event, and make some extra business calls each day. Use these top five tips and work on becoming a little bit more extroverted every day.