Friday, February 28, 2014

Introvert Networking Results: How to Gain Energy from an Unexpected Source

I love extraverts! An acquaintance recounted to me the story of one of those awkward gatherings where introverts (and shy people) stand around lamely laboring  to make small talk, secretly wishing that their pal who is the extravert will show up. The extraverted pal eventually emerged in a burst of energy. He talked nonstop about this, that, and the other thing - none of it consequential in the least.

Yet what happened next was a seeming miracle. Soon others were talking, mingling and, in short, networking. Having a great time and loving the interaction. Even when the extravert departed, the energy had shifted and the others continued chatting.

What's the lesson for you, the introvert? There are at least three.

One lesson is to take advantage of the extraverts in your midst when you're at a "networking" event. Appreciate what they bring rather than perhaps being irritated. Latch onto one. Get her talking with some well-thought questions, then sit back, and let it happen. This will help to conserve your own energy that is depleted by such events, as you know. With more energy, you can later approach someone quiet who is more like yourself and ask questions to get to know an introvert.

Another lesson is to realize that when the energy in a room shifts, it is easier for quiet people to be themselves. Consider: is there a way to help this transformation along? Humor is one approach. There is nothing like laughter to break the ice. Another approach is to have a topic to discuss prepared in advance and to simply find one person with whom to converse. If everyone were to do that, the room would be abuzz.

Last but not least, the lesson is that you don't need to be one (an extravert) in order to appreciate one.

No matter what, savor this difference between introverts and extraverts. Both bring something valuable to most interactions even though each sometimes struggles to find it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Heart of an Introvert's Influence at Work

Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., a self-identified introvert, claims to have found how to take advantage of a chemical in our brains, oxytocin, to increase happiness.

Oxytocin, which produces a sense of empathy, makes people more satisfied with their lives -- in a very real sense, happier. Dr. Zak began hugging people, looking in their eyes and inquiring about their feelings, and even telling them he loved them. He discovered that others responded with warmth. Happiness all around!

Zak also suggests liberal use of the word "service", as in "how can I be of service to you?"  While you probably won't want to start hugging others at work, this is something that even the most introverted among us can do to build relationships with our colleagues and a strategy that I recommend as well.

In The Introvert's Guide to Professional Success, I recommend this: Discover what others need that you can offer (as an introvert) and give it to them. Undertaken with sincere intent, the principle of reciprocity will serve you well in your career. By offering his service, Zak gets in return a community that makes him happier. And you can do the same.

Service. It goes to the heart of building influence with colleagues, bosses, and direct reports alike. And that influence is accompanied by a real relationship, built on your introverted qualities rather than a false persona.

In more than one way, service is a keystone to simply being happy.