How can introverted people who dislike networking do so for their business goals?
This question focuses on introverted business owners who dislike networking.
I believe the focus is being placed in the wrong area. It isn’t a matter of being introverted that makes one dislike networking. The real culprit is shyness.
Shyness and introversion are often lumped together as being the same thing, but they’re not.
Introversion versus extroversion is where you get your energy from. What recharges your energy?
Extroverts like group activities, lots of excitement, lots of socialization and doing so energizes them.
Introverts on the other hand, we like quiet, solitary activities. We prefer to be by ourselves. Large crowds of noisy people tend to drain us, and we recharge by spending time alone.
Which is better? Neither, actually. It’s just the way we are hard-wired from birth.
Now let’s take a look at shyness. Shyness is certainly more common in introverts, but it is not unheard of in our extroverted friends. Shyness isn’t a fault or defect in character. It’s merely a lack of social skills.
Over the past few years there is a term ‘solopreneur’ being bandied about to describe an entrepreneur who does everything on their own to manage their business.
This isn’t really an accurate term in that it’s impossible to operate a business in a vacuum. It’s necessary to interact with other people, be it your suppliers or your customers. You need to interact with people.
Networking for the purpose of building relationships, developing contacts and allowing people to get to know what you have to offer is integral to your business success.
But what if we dislike networking? There are likely many things in life that we dislike, but we do it anyway. I didn’t like parsnips as a child and was forced to eat them by my parents. Now I enjoy them, without any force being applied.
There is a significant difference between disliking an activity and being totally intimidated and terrified.
So, you’re a shy introvert. You’re always going to be an introvert, you aren’t going to change that. As for your shyness, it is possible to become unshy. Okay, that’s not really a word, but the idea is you can become less shy and more self-confident. As you become more self-confident in social situations, your shyness will decrease.
How do we build our self-confidence in social situations?
Our extroverted friends would just tell us, “suck it up buttercup, just get out there and network!”
A few years back when I wrote Power Networking for Shy People: How to Network like a Pro I never envisioned a world pandemic where we are prevented from face-to-face networking with people not of our own family.
On one hand, we lose out on the advantages of attending and participating in large face-to-face networking events. I can hear some introverts in the background cheering. “Ah, that’s too bad!”
This world-affecting event may be advantageous to introverts. On-line meetings via Zoom and other live streaming services have allowed us to meet face-to-face, for those who dare to turn their cameras on and has helped to break the effects of our imposed social isolation.
As an introvert you can participate in an on-line meeting without the pressure of having to meet somebody for the first time and introduce yourself, which many shy introverts find intimidating.
You may ask “how does participating on a Zoom call and not actually meeting any of the participants for one-to-one discussion help me network?”
There is a purpose for the Zoom call in the first place and a reason you’re on it. Planning ahead to have something to contribute when called upon can help build your credibility. Other people in the Zoom call will take notice to your contribution.
Back in the olden days, when we were able to meet face-to-face and do business belly-to-belly, we were able to contact an individual and invite them out to a coffee shop for coffee chat.
You can do the same online, by inviting someone to a coffee chat online. You can get a free Zoom account and schedule a meeting between the two of you. Plan for 40 to 50 minutes, 60 minutes tops. I find conversation tends to lag around that time, and you don’t want to wear out your welcome.
Many introverts have superior technological skills compared to our extroverted colleagues. This can be advantageous and level the playing field when it comes to networking if we apply some strategies.
One strategy might be to organize our own on-line event based around a specific topic. We would then invite business colleagues or those we think might be interested in our topic.
For example, this week I’m facilitating a Zoom call with Facebook Live for a local entrepreneurial Facebook group that I am the Administrator for. Our first session will be an open forum discussing anything related to entrepreneurism. I’ll see where it goes from there. If there is interest, I’ll provide more sessions on a weekly basis with varying topics of interest to our local entrepreneurs.
Am I shy? Yes, however, I’ve taken steps to overcome my shyness. Shyness is still my default mode, and I often have to overcome it to do what needs done.
Leveraging our social media presence can help us with building a network advantageous to our business goals. Firstly, you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile and maximize it for effectiveness. That includes being clear on the message you want your target market on LinkedIn to understand.
The content of your LinkedIn profile needs to be written promotionally. This isn’t the time to be shy, nor is it a time to brag. In my book Blow Your Own Horn! Personal Branding for Business Professionals, I cite a quote from Walt Whitman, American cowboy poet. Walt said, “if you done it, it ain’t braggin!”
Walt probably wasn’t talking about networking and self-promotion, but I think the quote is apt. To get ahead in the world and to promote and grow our business, we need to let everybody know what we do.
Having a dynamic LinkedIn profile is of little use if we don’t reach out and connect with like-minded business individuals. You will have better success in growing your online network if your invitation to connect has been personalized. Tell the other person what you share in common, or perhaps where you met the individual. After your invitation has been accepted follow-up with a message thanking them for the connection and sharing more information about yourself and plant a seed about future possibilities and opportunities in working together. This follow-up message is not the time to be selling your product or service. Yet, I get one or two of those messages every week.
LinkedIn also offers online groups you can join and participate in. Our current reality is we have a face-to-face network and now our online network. It can be easy to develop best friends online that you are unlikely to ever meet in person. These online connections can become good resources, as they are not likely direct competition in your local market.
Facebook can be a good place to build an online community and to network with individuals. While many of us have our own personal Facebook page, there can be value in creating one for your business. As people like and follow your business page you can develop online conversations with them which you can leverage into deeper relationships.
This hasn’t been the way I would answer this question a short year ago however, this is our new reality. As our local medical officers have been telling us “it isn’t forever… However, it is for now.”
When this pandemic is over and we get back to face-to-face networking, I’ll answer the question differently. I’m curious to see if we have seen the end of handshaking when first greeting someone. Will it be replaced with a fist bump, shoulder rub, or even a bow or curtsy? We certainly are living in interesting times.
For further discussion of business & personal networking, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
52 Power Networking Tips: How to Network Like a Pro
Blow Your Own Horn! Personal Branding for Business Professionals
You’re Hired! Leveraging Your Network: Job Search Strategies That Work
Power Networking For Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.