Contributor: Jeremie Kubicek
Most business happens in the social settings for a reason–people want to make sure there is chemistry before they do business together. It’s why people head out to the golf course for the day, or go out with a client to dinner and drinks.
Networking events are a perfect place for this, as they allow us to try each other on for size with little risk or obligation.
Do our personalities mesh well together? Does the person I’m talking to come across as competent, authentic, and trustworthy?
Getting to know each other in this casual way can only happen when everyone is relaxed enough to show who they really are. How do you navigate the social space in a way that works authentically for you?
Extroverts tend to thrive in social settings, enjoying the opportunity to make new friends and experience life outwardly. Extroverts recharge externally with others and by engaging in activity, so the prospect of playing a round of golf with people they’ve never met or mill around a cocktail party at a conference is exciting.
Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy and recharge internally by having introspective alone time. Socializing can be draining to them and they often dread the scenarios described above. However, introverts need not only to recognize the value of spending time in social settings, because of how it allows you to grow your influence with others, but also to learn how to navigate it well.
Here are two fail-safe tips to help:
1. Be curious. You never know when someone you meet may be a door opener to invaluable business opportunities or deep friendships. Introverts tend to avoid small talk, preferring conversations that have depth. But if you never talk about the weather or sports or travel with people, you miss out on opportunities for enriching conversations that give you energy and can lead to deeper business and personal relationships.
Ask yourself, “What are the possibilities in talking to the person in front of me?”
2. Learn to ask questions that help establish connections. Introverts like to have a chance to think about what they are going to say before they have to say it. You can learn to enjoy more being in social settings with new faces by having a mental list of questions that help break the ice.
Here are some open-ended questions that go beyond idle chat about the weather:
- What do I need to know about you?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- Where is your hometown? What brings you to this place where we are now?
- What is something unique about where you live?
- Who is the most famous person from your town?
- What do you love to do outside of work?
Once you get the ball rolling, remember to stay curious and follow the thread of conversation. By the end, you’ll have had a chance to see if there’s chemistry and establish connections either in the moment, or for the long term. Though introverts may not turn into extroverts using these strategies, with practice you can learn to better navigate the social space and increase your influence in the process.
Jeremie Kubicek is coauthor of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time and cofounder of GiANT Worldwide, a global company dedicated to transforming and multiplying leaders and teams. Find him on Twitter @jeremiekubicek.