As an introvert with a natural aversion to networking, Lisa Petrilli usually avoided business parties and corporate events because they made her fearful and uncomfortable. However, as she increasingly realized that such social withdrawal was damaging her career, she devised strategies that would overcome her fear of social events. She soon began to even embrace and enjoy these occasions and went on to run a $750 million dollar pharmaceutical business and to write the bestelling Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership.
With all the attention that extroverts seek and get, especially in our over-connected media-saturated world (and church), you could be forgiven for thinking that there are few introverts left in the universe. However, statistics tell us that about 25% of people are introverts, with a further 25% having introverted tendencies depending on circumstances (I think I would put myself in this latter group). And if the church has about the same ratios, that means about 50% of us struggle to reach out with the Gospel to others just because of our personality type.
So, can we learn anything from Lisa’s strategies for Business networking and apply them to Gospel networking? I believe we can. Consider the three she summarizes in An Introvert’s Guide to Networking, over at the Harvard Business Review.
I learned to appreciate my introversion rather than repudiate it.
I have met so many introverts in business who talk about introversion as if it’s a malady that one must get over in order to be successful. This is wrong. Introversion is simply a preference for the inner world of ideas because this is where we get our energy. By understanding and accepting this preference, introverts can optimize time spent with their ideas to refine them and recharge. This allows them to be as powerful and persuasive as possible when networking situations arise.
I recognized that one-on-one conversations would be my lifeline during networking. Generally speaking, business events — and particularly networking events that require engaging with groups — are demanding for introverts. An antidote to this, I learned, is to seek out conversations with one individual at a time. When I approach events this way I have more productive conversations and form better business relationships — and I’m less drained by the experience.
I stopped being afraid to be the one to reach out.
My inner introvert used to think that making the effort to introduce myself was risky. I worried that my target would not be interested in talking with me or that I would make them uncomfortable. I learned over time that when I extended my hand with a smile and an introduction my effort would be reciprocated, even when I approached executives above my rank.
I learned to prioritize time to re-energize.
While it can be tempting to go from a networking lunch right back to work, or from a networking cocktail event right to a dinner, if you’re an introvert and you do that you won’t be able to bring your best self to your next commitment. Take the time to recharge, whether by walking from the lunch back to work, or by finding 30 minutes alone between cocktails and dinner.
Now, fellow introverts, go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature – albeit one at a time and with 30 minute breaks in between.