One of the most common responses that I get when I tell people I wrote a book about networking is a simple, “Oh…well I’m an introvert…so that probably doesn’t work for me.” And over time, I’ve learned to answer that excuse with a trick question.
“Well, do you hate people?”
I have yet to meet an introvert who says they hate people. And that’s great, because networking at its core is really just about caring for people.
But I’ve met a lot of people who mistakenly think that they do. Introverts LOVE people. They just interact differently than the extroverts that so often unwelcomely dominate conversations, networking events, business meetings, and just about everything else.
Introverts love people differently.
Introversion and extroversion actually have nothing to do with one’s affinity (or lack thereof) for people. Instead, it’s a personality trait that refers to whether or not your draw energy from socialization. Extroverts draw energy from being around people and lose energy from being alone; introverts draw energy from being alone and lose energy from being around too many people. Neither of those personality traits says anything about much you love those around you.
But, ironically, building relationships with others may be a place where introverts actually have the edge. Research from network science, psychology, and other social sciences suggests that we prefer relationships where we get to know others in multiple contexts. We want to know more about people than we learn from superficial questions like “who are you and what do you do?” We want to know their back stories, their motivations, their passions, and so much more. And those conversations are more likely to happen in smaller groups settings, than in the large chatty gatherings that extroverts crave. So, while extroverts are making time for networking events, cocktail hours, and parties; introverts may be using that same time for just a few conversations—and building deeper relationships along the way.
Nothing above suggests that introverts love people MORE than extroverts. But it does carry welcome implications for a lot of introverts shamed for not going to that social event. There are many different ways to build meaningful relationships in life, and the fact that introverts and extroverts do them differently doesn’t give one group an edge. So, we should stop pretending it does. How you prefer to make new relationships and deepen existing ones depends on where you fall along a scale from energy producing to energy draining.
You just have to find the right one for you and the people you know and love.