Recently Susan Roane, author of How to Work a Room, contacted me when she heard about my forthcoming book on how to be a power connector. We had a great conversation in which she told me that the number one question people ask is, “I’m shy—how do I network?”
Most psychologists agree that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people in the U.S. can be classified as introverts. I too used to be part of that group: growing up I was a tall, awkward girl who did her best to shrink into the background in every social situation. But there’s something interesting about many of us introverts: because we don’t talk a lot, we are often very observant. We watch what people do and how they interact.
That’s exactly what I did all through high school and college, and in my first job. I watched people and learned about who they were, what they wanted, and how others successfully “broke the ice” with them in social situations. And then I tried a few things that helped me get past my initial reluctance (okay, fear) so that I could reach out to the people I wanted to meet.
Today when someone tells me they can’t network because they’re shy or introverted, I offer four suggestions that can help turn reluctant introverts into successful power connectors.
1. Realize that every important person in your life was once a stranger.
“Stranger danger” is a fallacy. After all, your best friend, first crush, spouse, mentor, co-worker, or teammate were strangers when you first met them. Whenever you think about networking, imagine that the next person you meet might turn out to be one of your closest friends.
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