from cnn: networking as an introvert

I normally just get news from CNN and not actual useful advice. But this is two in as many days! Anyway, How do I network if I am an introvert? I’m an introvert. I’m terrible about small talk and I tend to assume more people don’t want to know me or respect my viewpoints. I can always get past that, but it does take time. More time than small interactions usually allow. This article has some great advice that rings of truth.

Fake interaction. I never really thought of “small talk” as “fake interaction,” but I have to admit that phrase is appropriate. Introverts often have an internal personality and their external one is more guarded and is often made to mimic their audience. This then feeds a little bit of the imposter syndrome. As the article suggests, we introverts still should just be ourselves and try to let that guard down a little bit. Life is short, and people do care about us and our opinions and expertise.

Asking questions. Just like in dating, a good way to break the ice or open dialogue for someone who doesn’t “do dialogue,” is to ask questions. Most people like talking about themselves, and the attention is a positive feedback loop. Ask question, interject when possible, and be attentive. This works on pretty much everyone. But, what questions to ask? Aren’t all the ice breakers part of that damn small talk that we hate? Well, sometimes. For events, ask what someone does for work. Ask them how they decompress from life in IT/infosec. Ask them something that pertains to the talk you’re waiting on or just saw (did you understand all of that, or that was amazing, I’ve always wanted to…). Offer your name, and if you’re present in online communities, make sure they know that name as well. Even just a small interaction works, and you can then ping them later in the social space. I really like the article’s suggestion of, “What’s your favorite part of your work?” or some variation of.

Meet fewer people as a goal. Pick people sitting near you or someone else off to the side. Be interested, say hi, and introduce yourself. Consider this like a video game quest. Talk to 3 people at this all-day con that you didn’t know before, get their name and maybe where they work if it is that kind of event. And already be comfortable and ready to divulge your online screenname if you have one. If not comfortable, make one that will be comfortable to give up.

Just meet people. I don’t think introverts should go into “networking” with a specific goal of meeting people for job hookups. That is exactly the sort of fake interaction we’re terrible at doing. Instead, do some networking with the goal of just meeting people and sharing names and some information about each other. That doesn’t need to be faked, and can start that somewhat long road us introverts tread to getting to know someone better.

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