Not every successful person in the world is an extrovert. Some of the most famous — Warren Buffett, Barack Obama, Marissa Meyer and J.K. Rowling, are naturally introverts but they have achieved their career goals nevertheless.
It’s perfectly fine if you’re a naturally shy person but when this trait starts to get problematic, things need to change. If you are the kind of person to wait for friends before going into a room, then how are you ever going to create meaningful connections with new people? How are you ever going to have the courage to do something for yourself? Being shy is one thing but giving up on your goals because of your shyness is another.
Meeting new people is key to unlocking new opportunities. It takes effective networking and good social skills. While it take practice, you can become better at networking without having to change your personality.
Here are some of things you can try the next time you’re networking:
Photo Credit: Samuel Zeller
Start with body language
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has spoken about how body language shapes who we are in the eyes of those around us. Introverts often fear the awkwardness of social situations but if we physically open up to people through our body language, then we’ve already done half of the socializing. Stand up straight, put your phone away and don’t cross your hands. Give them a firm handshake and don’t be afraid to exude confidence by smiling to people you don’t know at a gathering.
Let others talk about themselves
Even the humblest will take the chance to talk about what they are doing if they are given the opportunity. Instead of talking about yourself, be an active listener and get to know the person you’ve just met. By doing so, you’re drawing focus away from you and more so, it can lead to meaningful connections.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not
If you’re not a naturally funny person then don’t try to entertain the room. You don’t need to impress people for them to open up to you. This isn’t how to make a good first impression. Instead, aim for engagement. Listen to what the person is telling you and ask them questions related to what they’re saying.
Don’t fear the silence
Real confidence shines through during those moments of silence when you see a person who doesn’t need to fill every moment with meaningless sentences. Silence won’t kill you, so the next time there is a pause in the conversation, allow it to sink in before saying something else.
Don’t take rejection personally
If a person walks away from you, don’t take it personally. A quarter of a conversation isn’t enough to get to know someone, so this walking away is not a reflection on you. Being open to new people and new experiences means being open to rejection too. It’s part of the package and if others have survived from rejection, so will you.
Stop caring what people think
People will always have opinions of you whether you fail or succeed. It’s difficult to stop caring what people think about you but it’ll open you up to more authentic interactions.
Do your homework
If it’s more than a random party and there’ll be people who could help you with your goals, then you need to do your homework for effective networking. It’ll give you topics to bring up in conversation and help you get the most out of every interaction.
Learn how you are coming across
It’s always good to know how you’re coming across. Sometimes thoughts and actions get lost in translation. Ask those closest to you to give you their honest opinion about your approach with people. Is your voice too loud or barely audible? Do you seem confident through your body language? Are you using certain words that make you sound immature or unprofessional? Be open to this criticism so you can learn where you can make improvements to better your social skills.
The confidence you need to work a room requires time and practice. Going to social gatherings, making mistakes and improving with each new person is the only way to master the art of talking to strangers. You need to be present to make new connections and build relationships. That’s why the first step is the most difficult: You’ve got to show up.