The introverted, the right-brained networkers and extroverted, the left-brained networkers…
According to C. G. Jung’s theory of psychological types, introduced in the 1920s, there are different attitudes people use to direct their energy. Two major types are described as extroversion and introversion.
You can take a simple personality test, the Myers-Briggs test for example, which traces the patterns in your behavior to one of 16 distinct personality types. It will provide a framework for understanding yourself and appreciating the differences in others.
As far as extroverts go, they tend to thrive off being around other people, they take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings and also tend to work well in groups. An extroverted person will often enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. Extroverts are energised when around other people, they radiate positive energy and are more prone to boredom when they are alone. Extroverts are more likely to a dominance of their left brain, the neocortex brain, the logic brain, the “doing” brain.
In comparison, introverts often take pleasure in solitary activities, such as reading, writing and using computers. They enjoy time spent by themselves and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though they may enjoy interactions with close friends. Trust is usually an issue of significance: a virtue of utmost importance to introverts is choosing a worthy companion. They are generally more emotional when they speak and are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement. Introverts are more likely to have a dominance of their right brain, the limbic brain, the emotional and creative brain, the “being” brain.
Back in 1999, scientists measured the cerebral blood flow of introverted and extroverted people with position emission tomography (PET) scans while they thought freely. They found that the introverts had more blood flow in their frontal lobes and anterior thalamus — brain regions involved in recalling events, making plans and solving problems. Extroverts had more blood flow in brain areas involved with interpreting sensory data, including the anterior cingulate gyrus, the temporal lobes and the posterior thalamus. The data suggested —as Jung believed — that the extroverts’ attention focused outwards and the introverts’ attention focused inwards.
Yet, in reality, each and every one of us spends a certain amount of time either extroverting or introverting. To be a good networker you definitely need to possess a bit of both. Excellent communication skills are crucial in networking and being a great listener, a true virtue of introverts is the first step to becoming a great networker and passer of referrals. The extroverted character is almost always comfortable walking into a room full of strangers and talking to a group right away. It is worth remembering that a good networker also has two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionally.
In ‘The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership’ author Lisa Petrilli notes that introverts represent from 25 to 49% of the population. She also recognises that introversion increases with intelligence; more than 75% of people with IQs above 160 are introverts.
For those of you who are introverted, networking is really not your favorite pastime, however, avoiding networking can be career-limiting, so use networking to do what you do best and build relationships, so here are a few tips to successful networking for introverts:
- Network on your own terms: commit to networking, but in a way you find comfortable. Network one-on-one rather than in groups. Look to create valuable, deep relationships with a modest number of valued leaders, rather than compiling a long list of superficial relationships.
- Create a comfortable environment for yourself: learn about the individual in advance and think through the ways you can help them and vice versa. Make sure you know where you are going and you are prepared ahead of the networking event.
- Leverage your skills as an introvert: listening is probably one of your strengths; prepare some questions in advance that can get the conversation going. Use email and social media to get the conversation started in advance and keep it going after the meeting.
And a few tips for the extroverts:
- Make others comfortable: as an extrovert initiate and carry on conversations with people in any situation. Extroverts are at ease with small talk and chitchat, become a connector and introduce people to each other.
- Pay attention and honor others’ communication styles: it won’t be easy for you to do this, but networking is a win-win situation so you really need to butt off sometimes and listen to the conversation, rather than just being the centre of the conversation at all time.
- Build long-lasting relationships: the problem for you extroverted individuals is the next stage, you are so busy and so want to get to talk to the next person, you could actually miss out on great opportunity. So follow through on your conversations, make a point to meet again or use social media to carry on the relationship you have just made.