I typed this while sitting on the couch with my 5-year old daughter, who I anticipate will test as a high extrovert later in life. She loves being the center of attention, is not afraid to shake a stranger’s hand, and is bold in both her wardrobe and behavior. Meanwhile, I can hear my 8-year old, behind closed doors in her room, talking out loud to herself. She likely knows the reward for coming out of her room is to watch TV or a movie, but in this moment, is enjoying the solitude of her room. She’s likely to test farther on the introvert scale.
My husband and I are both ambiverts (I was introduced to this term by Susan Cain – most noted for her book Quiet). We both have roles that require significant interpersonal interaction and being on stage, but also create a significant amount of scholarly and written work behind closed doors. Since I live in a blended world, and want both of my children to succeed, I decided to explore the research on networking differences between introverts and extraverts. Here’s what I found, with links to the direct sources so you can dig in where it will support your networking growth.
It’s all about the chemicals. This QuietRev article breaks down the science in an easy-to-follow manner. Put most simply, extraverts get a “buzz” off of dopamine, whereas introverts get overstimulated. I would classify dopamine as the chemical that is released that enables people to “put themselves out there”. Introverts, on the other hand, respond more favorable to acetylcholine, which makes us feel good when we turn inward. It helps with focus and reflection, which is aided by being in a calm and quiet environment.
What does this mean for networking: Extraverts may get a rush from a room full of potential new relationships and feel energized the more their networking efforts connect them to new people and opportunities. Introverts may find greater satisfaction connecting 1:1 with someone in a quieter environment, especially if there is a particular area of focus or conversation.
Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. An immediate impulse might be to classify introverts as less effective networkers than extroverts. This may be true if an introvert is also very shy, but could also be true of a shy extrovert. As Susan Cain writes in this article, “Shyness is the fear of negative judgement, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”
What does this mean for networking? Where would you plot yourself on a shyness and introversion/extroversion matrix? If you tend toward the shy end, it may take more preparation and energy to jump into networking. If you tend toward the introverted end, you may simply prefer a venue that is calm and free from significant stimulus. As you put the two measurements together, think about the energy and environment needed for you to have your most effective shot at making meaningful connections with others.
Networking is a two-way street. Our own feelings about our capability and tendencies in networking are extremely important (plug for high degree of self-awareness here), but it’s also important to remember that we don’t network in isolation. Meeting people where they are when it comes to networking is also extremely important. As pointed out in this blog, style has a lot to do with compatibility when networking. The focus of this article is on the four DISC styles, and points out that “birds of a feather (tend) to flock together.” Those with tendencies toward steadiness prefer networking with others who are steady, influencers with other influencers, and so on.
What does this mean for networking? Recognize where your networking colleagues are in regard to style and preference. While it’s natural to stick to those like you, you may learn a lot – and stretch your networking capabilities in the process – when you seek to find common ground with someone who has a different networking style.
This research reminded me that putting a label on ourselves – and anyone else for that matter – is simply that, a label. What matters is our mindset. When we have a clear goal in mind for our networking efforts, we have the power to bring people into our lives that will leave us all better than before we started.
Great resources I recommend if you are interested in this topic:
5 Myths about Introverts and Extraverts by Adam Grant
Susan Cain’s TED talk: The Power of Introverts
Are you ready to amp up your self-awareness? Check out this assessment overview and reach out to me at email@example.com if you’d like to take the next step.
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