Have you ever had one of those moments that are like the Road Runner cartoon where you are going along minding your own business when all of a sudden clarity comes over you like an anvil falling out of the sky? Well that is exactly what happened to me yesterday. If you have followed Red Feather Networking blog posts for awhile you will know that I consistently write about introversion and extroversion challenges. Being an introvert and having raised both an introvert daughter and an extrovert daughter, I tend to know a thing or two about the subject. I am also always trying to learn more by reading blogs, attending webinars and seminars about the subject. I will admit that on more than one occassion some of the blogs/webinars/seminars have left me a bit put off. They are facilitated by “experts” on the topic; people who have studied this subject for years. However, I am very often left shaking my head at the information that I feel is misleading, misspoken or sometimes downright incorrect. This encounter always makes me feel guilty. I wonder to myself (and to any of my friends who will listen), “who am I to question the experts on this?” This is where my Road Runner anvil moment comes in…. Who exactly is an expert? Is it the person who has done the research? It certainly could be. Is it the person who is educated in the field? It most certainly could be. Is it the person who lives day in and day out as an introvert/extrovert and knows all the pitfalls and the perks that comes along with being this type of personality? ABSOLUTELY!
Having had my ahh-haa moment about the definition of “expert” I decided to see what The American Heritage Dictionary had to say about it and to see if it would confirm my notion that I am indeed an expert in this area. Per the dictionary, “expert” is defined as “A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.” YES – that’s me! And you know what? ITS YOU TOO!!! And what’s even better? IT’S YOUR ENTIRE NETWORK OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY! YAAA HOOO!
Now that you have hopefully had an anvil moment as well it’s time to take a deeper look at things. If you could name three things that your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances consistently ask you about what would they be? Now ask yourself, “what three things do I consistently ask (fill in any name of a friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance here) to help me with?” I think you will see that not only are you an expert to others but you are also surrounded by your own private little entourage of experts in so many areas. This is a very comforting feeling isn’t it?
I am not by any means suggesting that I am more knowledgeable than all the people who study and research the subject of introversion and extroversion – I’m not – so there is no need to leave a comment about my ego (I’m sure you will have other opportunities for that down the road). What I am saying is that often we look further than we need to look. We are much more apt to “Google it” than to “phone a friend.” We need to remember that we have great resources surrounding us day in and day out. We simply need to take the time to identify the strengths of those around us as well as to give ourselves credit for the things that we “just know”. These “just know” things are the product of years and years of how we have lived, fears we have faced, challenges we have conquered and successes that we have had in our lives. Our “just knows” are what we are made of, our likes and dislikes, our idiosyncrasies, our unique personality. Our “just knows” are what make us an expert on things – they are what make us… us!
I would love to hear about your area of experise. Hop on over to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RedFeatherNetworking and just leave me ONE WORD describing what you are best known for with your family and friends. And as always….Thanks for reading ~
Each year, during July 4th week, I take a vacation with my family. Its something we have done for the past 25 years. It is actually what I call a TRUE vacation. We go to the same place, stay in the same condo, shop at the same grocer, we have favorite restaurants and we know the town inside and out so we don’t feel obligated to do anything touristy. This allows us to fully relax unlike when we visit a strange city. We have 5 other families that join us on this week and have done so all 25 years. We have watched our kids grow up and some of them even have kids of their own. It’s a great time and a great reunion each and every year. There is one drawback. While I may be physically on vacation, my personality doesn’t take a vacation. I’m still a very social introvert. So what does that mean and why is it a drawback?
I am an introvert however I am not shy. When I do get in social settings I am very comfortable and can hold my own. I have no issues with gatherings small or large (well, most times). I enjoy meeting new people and I normally can relax and be myself. However, I can only handle this in small quantities. Social gatherings for an introvert actually drain them of energy unlike an extrovert who will gain energy from such events. If you are an introvert you know exactly what I mean. We have to remember that while we might be on vacation our personalities are not. For an introvert, sometimes even a relaxing day at the beach can become over-stimulating.
Although no one wants to make plans for their every waking moment while on vacation I think it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind:
- You are still going to need down time no matter where you travel. If you allow yourself that you will find that you are able to enjoy your vacation much more.
- Take your travel time/method into consideration. Vacation doesn’t start when you arrive at your destination; it starts when you leave home. If a long car ride with others or a long day of airports and airplanes is involved you will need to allow some down time as soon as you arrive at your destination. An easy way to do this without seeming to retreat from your family/friends is to encourage them to go explore. You can send them on a mission to check out a restaurant for dinner while you unpack your suitcase and grab a quick shower.
- Plan your day with some “me” time included. This may mean getting up before everyone and enjoying your coffee by the pool or taking a midday stroll. If you don’t want to feel as if you are losing vacation time than do something you want to do – just do it alone. Explore a local museum or take photos in a local park.
- If you are traveling with a large group arrange to have a dinner or two alone with just your significant other or one/two close friends. Chose a quiet restaurant and try to go when it’s not so crowded. Avoid the early hours when the clientele is mostly families with children. Go when the energy level in the restaurant is low and you are able to relax and unwind.
- Upon arriving home, allow yourself that same courtesy of down time when you are done with your travel day.
Just as an extrovert will want to go go go while they are traveling, introverts need to chill chill chill. The problem is that more people are tolerant of the extrovert often giving them titles of praise like “life of the party” and “full of energy” while introverts usually get the labels that are a tad negative “anti-social” or “party pooper”. It’s this reason that introverts tend to not give themselves the down time that they need. If you are a social introvert I’m sure you can recall several times that you pushed yourself past the limit of comfort often staying up later to entertain or attending another dinner when all you really wanted to do was put on your pj’s and read a good book. Just remember, your introversion is nothing that you need to try to change – it’s is as much a part of you as your eye color or your smile. It’s who you are and there are no apologizes needed.
If you have an introvert/extrovert issue you would like me to address in a future blog post please let me know. Email me directly at email@example.com, say hi on Twitter @chelelawson, connect with me on LinkedIn – Michele Lawson, or simply leave a comment to this post.
Thanks for reading ….
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If you’re an introvert, you know exactly what I mean when I say “post networking crash”. Let’s say that you go to a networking event, and you do great! You’ve implemented new introduction techniques, practiced your eye contact, you met some interesting new people and actually connected with some of them. You walk out of the event feeling great about yourself. You did it! By the time you get home, you feel exhausted and drained. You start thinking over the night and wonder if you really did as well as you thought you did. If you did a such a good job networking, shouldn’t you be feeling on top of the world right now?
I’ve experienced this post networking crash for my entire life. And I always thought there had to be something wrong with me. Why wasn’t I on a social high after events like this? Even at parties or professional meetings, I have always felt empty and drained afterward, like it took everything I had to make the effort of simply talking with people.
What I now realize is that the post networking crash is a completely normal phenomenon for introverts. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong during your networking event, it just means you need to recharge. The best part is, there are some things you can do to manage and even reduce the impact of the post networking crash.
Figure out your recharging to social ratio and keep it in balance
Every introvert has a certain amount of social time they are comfortable with, and knowing that ratio can help you to keep from being too maxed out. It takes a lot of energy to be social. Knowing exactly how many social events you can comfortably commit to will help you to be fully present at each event, not wishing you were at home reading a book.
Plan recharging into your schedule.
If you have a job that requires you to be social, and friends that you need to keep up with, you might find your calendar too full of social obligations for comfort. You plan your social obligations, why not schedule in your recharging time as well? If you have a 7pm professional meeting on a weekday, leave work and go to a park for some down time before the event. Be as purposeful about your recharging time as you are with other events on your schedule.
Recognize when too much is too much.
Sometimes, you are just going to have to say no. If you over commit yourself to social events, you aren’t going to fully participate or do justice to any of them. Choose wisely and then prepare yourself to be fully engaged and participate in the events that you do attend. You’ll find that you get much more benefit if you prioritize quality over quantity.
Do you have tips for managing the post networking crash! Share them with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
Most people who know me will tell you that I am constantly on the move. If I don’t have something to occupy my thoughts, I’ll make something up to keep myself busy. That’s probably why I have gotten into the habit of getting audio books from the library and listening to them on my daily commute. Most of the time I listen to fiction novels, but this time I selected the quintessential networking book, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I read this book at the beginning of my career in the late nineties, sixty years after it was first published.
If you’ve been reading the RFN blog and attending ourworkshops or seminars, hopefully you’ve begun to incorporate some of the concepts we discuss into your own networking efforts. You may have also realized that sometimes other people aren’t open to making connections. I used to be one of those people. I didn’t realize I wasn’t open — I just never thought about it. When someone approached me out of the blue, I automatically assumed they wanted to sell me something. As a result, I missed out on a lot of potential connections.
The reality is, your attempts at connecting with people are sometimes going to be met with disinterest, dismissive behavior, and even outright rejection. Learning to handle these situations with grace is an essential part of networking. If you become discouraged every time someone doesn’t respond well to your approach, you will never reach the goal ofbuilding a strong network.
In my last blog post we looked at being shy, the concept of “the looking-glass self” and what it means. Unlike introverts, people who are shy can take some steps get over the fear of interaction. I am here to tell you that people suffering from shyness CAN successfully network and make connections. I’m going to give the tips in pre-during-post event timeframe.
When I use the word “event” I mean any social situation, large or small, that you find difficult to submerge yourself into. This can range from a luncheon you have to attend for a friend of yours who is getting married to a conference of thousands and anything in between.
Let’s start with preparing for an event. (Just the mention of this probably made your stomach drop like you are on a rollercoaster – hopefully these tips will help lessen that uneasiness).
- Start small if possible – No reason to bypass the bunny slopes and go straight for the black diamond slope.
- Attend something you have an interest in – for example, if you enjoy to read than a book club may be a good start. One of the things people fear most is getting into an environment where they have nothing to contribute to the conversation.
- Ask a friend or two to join you. This will provide moral support and will also keep you from getting cold feet and backing out at the last minute
- Do research beforehand. If you have never been to the venue than I suggest you drive there a day or two ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the route, the parking and the building. If there will be a guest speaker, Google them. Knowing something about the speaker will give you something to talk about when socializing with other attendees.
Once you arrive at the event:
- When you arrive, try not to start counting the minutes until you can leave. Although you would think the key would be short periods of time – it’s just the opposite. Remember, one way to overcome shyness is practice and exposure. By staying at an event for only a brief period of time you are not giving yourself the opportunity to loosen up, get comfortable with the environment and engage.
- Do not arrive late. Many people think that if an event is from 7 – 10p that they will arrive at 830 and leave at 930p. This plan has you entering the event when it is already in full swing. Its best to arrive at the beginning of the event so you are in, settled and getting acclimated before the others arrive. Its gives you more of a feeling of belonging and not a feeling of trying to fit in.
- Smile no matter how uncomfortable you are inside. No one wants to engage a person in conversation that looks like a Debbie Downer.
- No matter what type of environment (sitting, standing etc) make sure that your area immediately surrounding you is approachable. If you sit down and immediately put your coat on the chair to your left and have your back turned to the chair on your right than no one will feel as if they can “enter your space”.
- Listen when a person says their name and use their name when speaking to them. Everyone likes to hear their name. I know when people use my name in conversation I feel as if they are really listening to me – “Wow Michele, that’s very interesting”
- If you are standing with a group of people and you are unfamiliar with the topic – DO NOT RETREAT (physically or mentally)! Ask questions. We are not supposed to know something about every topic. The best way to elicit conversation is to say (while smiling) – this is fascinating and not a subject I’m familiar with – and then follow that with a question such as “so how does that work” or “please go on – I’m really enjoying learning about this”.
- If you attend with other people you will need to go outside your comfort zone and separate from the pack. At least off and on. If people see you consistently with the same group of people they will not approach you. Remember back to when you were dating – people never approach their “crush” when they are surrounded by all their friends.
- Keep in mind that you are NOT the only shy person in the room. Look for someone who is exemplifying the traditional signs of shyness and reach out to them. Remember, you know better than anyone the anxiety they are most likely experiencing.
- Exchange information – you are sure to have at least one opportunity to exchange information with someone. I encourage you to give them several ways to contact you and you also need to ask for their information. For me personally, I prefer to reach out via email, text or online. When I exchange information I do give my phone number however I generally preface it by saying “here is my number however let me also give you my email which is generally the best way to reach me. Making a date to get together sounds scary however it’s not as bad as you think. If you have been talking about your favorite books offer to loan them a book you have that they showed interest in and then plan a casual “coffee date” or some other form of casual meeting in which to connect again.
After the event:
- Follow up – DO NOT let all the hard work that you did by putting yourself out there go to waste. Follow up and make good on any commitment that you made to call or get together again. Even if it’s not to meet. There is nothing wrong with dropping an email saying “Hi, I just saw that your favorite author had an interview in xyz magazine. I thought of you and wanted to send you the link. Hope you are doing well.”
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat – Practice is key to becoming more comfortable with emerging yourself in social situations so set a goal. One event a month? A week? Once you hit a plateau that you are comfortable with than raise the bar. Attend larger events or attend more frequently.
After all is said and done, I want to share with you one piece of advice that a friend shared with me and it is one of the most valuable words of wisdom that I have ever received. BE YOURSELF. I know – sounds diluted and simple however it is so true. You have amazing things to offer, as much, if not more, than the people you will be socializing with so embrace it and let things flow naturally. Some of the best connections and friendships that I have ever made were when I wasn’t even trying.
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