We're finally ready to expand our UX team.
Wrapped in the idea of "always working with people smarter than you", I woke up from my dormant introvert winter, hopped in my social shoes, got out in the spring bloom and started my search for the perfect desk mates.
Yes babe, it means going to various social mixers and mingling with random people. If you are an introvert like me who wants to connect with people, and were constantly advised "Just get out there! Grab a drink! Talk to everyone!", you probably have felt the same pain. Thank god this book came to me right before my social season started:
A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
Believe me, it's a true remedy, worth every penny!
Long before I learned the difference between myself and those extroverts, I went to a networking training, and was coached on how to do small talks: the weather, the weekend plan, family, kids, vacation, complimenting others' outfit... They said those were the ice-breakers. I never knew people (those extroverts!) actually spent so much energy talking to a stranger about these insignificant or personal trivia! In fact, if someone came to me with all that "small talks", my mind would check out within 5 minutes, losing connection immediately. My inner monologue would be: "Get to the point, man." - of course, I'm not perceived as the most friendly type.
Now, Devora Zack stood up for all of us:
Basically, extroverts talk to think. Introverts think to talk.
The above sentence is worth repeating for at least 3 times.
While the extroverts are "working the room", talking to everyone, making sure everyone is attended, keeping an even afloat, WE are able to communicate with clarity and precision. We learn primarily from listening and observing, not from speaking.
“So if you do not have a gift for chatter, focus on what you do have—a predisposition to watch and gather data.”
Introverts, who usually don't connect with a wide range of people at a party like an extrovert does, connect with a few people in depth. While extraverts were asking EVERYONE about the kids or the summer vacation, we were able to ask a handful of people some very well thought questions to build the rapport.
At the end of the party, an extravert probably would have collected hundreds of cards and remembered none - or if they're diligent, they might as well send out hundreds of LinkedIn requests with the same meaningless message, in hope that a few of the self-absorbed ones wouldn't mind to add one more strangers to their "professional network". But we would be happily Googling the 5 names we had in hand, and decide to follow up with 3.
The lesson is, I don't need to feel bad that I've only talked to 5 people at a party. Introverts just have a higher ROI (Return On Investment).
Knowing that our energy for human interaction is a limited resource that constantly needs recharge, we, the thoughtful ones, can carefully craft our networking strategy to work to our strength.
- Do research before hand.
- I nowadays familiarize myself with the agenda and attendees before I go to any event, so that I know where to direct my easily-ran-out people energy. Past failing experience taught me I'm not a spontaneous networker. If I don't emotionally and intellectually prepare myself, I would dread the event within 30 minutes.
- Talk to staff and organizer.
- I feel much more comfortable to compliment the staff on their hard work and offer help, thus to get to know the big picture of the event, rather than "working the room". The staff and the organizer usually have the best insights of what's going on in the respective subject.
- Get into the spotlight.
- Many introverts would agree: "Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards." In my lone time I always make sure I have several elevator pitches ready prepared. Whenever there's a chance, I would get in the spotlight, and make myself an openly approachable target - let other people come to find me.
- Monitor the petrol meter
- People drain my energy. Lone time gain me energy. After fully understood how my petrol meter works, I was able to know when I should take a break from the crowd, when I should just split - before I say the next stupid thing under unstable mental condition. :)
- Positive thinking
- Extroverts are usually smooth talkers. They say things on the spot, and they can easily dismiss later. We're different. We think carefully before we talk, and we take our words seriously. It's not uncommon that I dwell on things I accidentally said, and keep editing the phrases I already spit out. It's very bad for the mental health... Sometime we should just learn from those extroverts: letting go of (some of) our words. After all the events and parties, dust to dust, ashes to ashes!
I highly recommend Networking For People Who Hate Networking. It's not just a good, practical book to equipped us with tactics; It solved a lot of my identity crisis, really worth it! :)