I recall having a conversation about introversion with a young man during an exhibition at Gallery 1957 in Accra. His first words to me upon saying hello were “are you an introvert or extrovert”. Honestly I struggle to answer this question because I am a bit of both, though I find myself being more introverted. So the question is who is an introvert?

Without typing out a lot of psychology jargons, I will simply say an introvert is an individual who is often thought of as quiet, reserved, and thoughtful. They tend to avoid large social gatherings and events, enjoy spending time alone and feel drained when they attempt to talk excessively or spend a lot of time around people.

An ideal day for an introvert will consist of being alone by themselves just getting work done, or indulging in an activity by themselves. The truth however, is that, this always can’t be so. Especially if you are a creative or entrepreneur who needs to meet people and build connections.

In this article I will list out a few tips that can help most introverts network better.

First things first

First ask, why am I hanging out with people or have a desire to network? Make clear your goals for networking. Is it to meet interesting people? Is it to meet a potential client? Is it to find someone to fall in love with? Whatever your goals are, make them clear before heading into any social circle. This will guide your conversations (even those not initiated by you) and keep you on track to achieving your goals.

Focus on one person at a time

It can be terrifying when entering a social environment alone. Walking past groups of people chatting together and hoping to see someone you know. This thought alone can make an introvert scared of heading out. But one must relax when entering a social environment. The goal shouldn’t be to talk to the first person at the door and every person in one’s path, as that will leave an introvert drained even before the event ends. It’s about finding a good spot, or just walking casually, analyzing the energy in the room and taking notice of people’s body language: who they are with, if they seem happy, spaced out, enjoying the event or extremely bored. You must analyze and gauge the energy in the room, pick who you want to connect with and approach them.

Don’t waste time trying to speak to everyone. Some are guarded (and may embarrass you) and you can tell by their body language, others who have similar goals to yours will be more open to meeting others and will be generally more vibrant, engaging with the event or sometimes simply have a smile or positive demeanor. It helps to know who to approach. If someone seems walled off, it will require a lot more energy to bring down those walls, and it’s best not to push, but to respectfully leave them alone.

In summary don’t force a conversation. Some may be drained from talking to others, or have issues on their mind and won’t feel like connecting. Don’t take it personal just carry on.

Know your value

Know who you are and what you have to offer. This creates an aura of confidence. Before you head out, you must know who you are. This mindset affects how you dress and carry yourself; if you are pretending to be someone else, people will tell eventually. If you also don’t respect or love yourself it will show immediately.

Having a rough entrepreneurial season (for example, having poor sales) or even a breakup can crush one’s confidence. But don’t worry about answering questions about how good business is going and all. Just focus on a single sentence to use in introducing yourself. If someone expresses interest in what you say, congrats, you are close to your goal; if not, just find out what they are into, exchange details and carry on networking.

Remember, what people think about you doesn’t matter as much as what God thinks about you. So when walking in any venue declare God’s word over yourself. People may have told you that you are dumb or won’t amount to anything; you may have failed numerous exams and feel like a failure; you are probably attending the networking meeting with Ghc1 in your bank account and have a pile of debt; but speak God’s word over yourself because your faith in God before entering any networking event can lead to a connection that can change your life.

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Take a break when needed

Take a breather if you have to. Head out to a quiet place for a while and get back in. Sometimes networking can be draining; in instances like this simply excuse yourself from the group, find a quiet place, close your eyes, take in deep breaths, relax for about five minutes and then go back in. Anything above five minutes will lead to boredom and you wanting to go back home to be alone.

Keep a bag of opening lines handy.

It always helps to know what to say but when you don’t, you can always say things like:

  • Hello, how are you? are you enjoying the show, event, exhibition? Then you can follow up with asking their thoughts on a particular detail of the event, for example something you like, learnt or took note of.
  • You can also make comments or simply compliment something striking you notice about people. Example: are those handmade, I totally love your earrings? Where can I get something similar? This must be very genuine. Genuinely comment or compliment someone or something you notice.
  • If the person was a speaker at an event, you can compliment their speech and tell them how you connected with it. Example: Very intelligent speech, I was deeply inspired by what you said. Follow up with questions or thoughts on what they said. This again my be genuine.

Compliments are the best way to start a conversation; genuine compliments show people the details you notice that others probably don’t and they also help lower people’s walls as well.

NOTE: You must be careful when using compliments around the opposite sex as you don’t want to cross the line. This guide isn’t about flirting or pickup lines, it’s about meeting and connecting genuinely with people. You can lose a potential client or connection, simply because you decided to flirt with them (due to attraction) rather than genuinely connecting with them.

Ask questions, digest, be curious and be willing to learn more. Make who, what and why your best friends.

After starting a conversation using an opening line, be curious; don’t just give closed answers like okay, yes and no. If someone says I studied in Egypt, Paris or Japan, for two years. Ask how it was living away from home. What they loved about the city? If they are creative or ever visited any museums and or cultural centers. Take each conversation as a learning experience NOT AN INTERVIEW. Even something as simple as knowing someone loves chicken stew can lead to questions like how they create their stew? What kind of spices they love? Whether they kill chickens or buy packaged meat, and if the tastes differ greatly. Curiosity sparks new conversations and deepens the new found friendship.

Curiosity also gives you something to say. The more you read, gain knowledge, engage in different aspects of society and life, the more interesting your conversations will be as you will have a lot to share. It helps to make a list of things that interest you. Do make it a point as well to grow yourself by discovering new interests and things you may like. Keep this in mind: having genuine interest in people, society and certain topics, makes you a more interesting person.

Be respectful to people and express genuine interest in what people do even if you will get nothing in return

Looking around when people are talking to you (without maintaining focus) as though trying to find a better connection; or simply passing comments to make others feel lesser than you, will take you nowhere in life. Your goal may be to win a client, or tell people about your business or something that concerns you. If you however meet someone speaking about something unrelated to you, still show them some respect. If they disrespect you, just politely end the conversation, reaffirm God’s word over yourself and move on. Actively listen but keep the conversation short if you have to. Never let people leave your presence feeling less of themselves.

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 NLT

Thank you for reading. Do let me know your thoughts. If you have any tips to add to these, drop them in the comments below. Thank you and stay blessed!

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