Business networking can be hard for some entrepreneurs and small business owners. Interacting with new people and building relationships requires a certain amount of energy and capacity for social stimulation, and while extroverted professionals thrive in this regard, the more introverted have different needs and views when it comes to socializing. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner with an introverted personality, you may know how challenging it can be to network successfully, much less enjoy it.
One third to a half of the population are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Scientific research has found chemical and nervous system differences between extroverts and introverts, explaining that an introverted person’s brain processes information more slowly and thoroughly. Depth, not breadth, generally characterizes an introvert’s natural (and preferred) experience of their thoughts and feelings.
For introverted entrepreneurs and small business owners, networking may be off-putting when it’s seen as another investment of mental energy. Introverts crave depth in their social interactions, so the idea of “selling yourself” to other people may seem daunting or presumptuous. Whatever your personality, building relationships with other professionals is an important part of running a successful business, so here are five introvert-friendly strategies to make networking more enjoyable and productive.
1. Schedule one-on-one meetings
Most introverts crave deep, genuine connection and find large group events to the wrong setting to find those connections. Know when to push yourself to participate in them, but there’s also nothing wrong with networking in smaller groups or bonding with someone over a cup of coffee.
In fact, smaller groups offer less chance of interruption and more opportunity for deeper conversations.
2. Make it personal
Building relationships is truly the point of networking. If you want to connect meaningfully with another person and build a relationship that lasts, you will need to risk sharing more of yourself. So, don’t be afraid to chat about your hobbies or share a fact about your family, and ask a few personal questions in return.
3. Be mindful of your limit for social stimulation
This is crucial for introverted professionals who get drained from social events. Schedule some time before or after to recharge, and don’t feel guilty about it! Not having the energy to properly engage with others isn’t beneficial for you or anyone else interested in working with you. Over-exerting yourself isn’t going to help you work productively, either.
4. Try online networking through social media
This is a good networking method if you’re still testing the waters of business networking and building up your confidence. It’s also a good way to balance out the number of face-to-face interactions you have.
Nowadays, many businesses and solo entrepreneurs have digital presences on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and connecting with a colleague online is also a good way to stay updated on their projects and accomplishments.
5. Own your introversion
In order to build lasting business relationships you have start building from a genuine place — which means you have to be your authentic, introverted self. It can be easy to feel pressured into acting more outgoing and charismatic to keep up with your extroverted colleagues, but putting on a facade will only hurt you in the long run. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It’s the like-minded individuals who will be drawn to you.
When you’re an introverted professional, it’s okay if you feel overwhelmed by a too-loud office, a full meeting room, and group events. According to Jenn Granneman, founder of the largest online introvert platform, it’s due to your biological wiring.
There’s nothing wrong with using different socializing strategies to avoid feeling mentally drained. Once you know how to work within your needs and boundaries, networking can both find you the meaningful connections you crave as an introvert and the right relationships to help your business flourish.