How to develop power, effortless self-expression, and extraordinary freedom as an introverted woman
Do you ever feel claustrophobic in a room full of strangers? Does your heart feel like it’s a sack of bricks free-falling through the stratosphere when someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer right away? Perhaps you feel physically ill when speaking to a stranger, or happiest at home on the couch with your cat named Socks and a can of Pringles.
Until a few years ago, I was far too familiar with those experiences.
No exaggeration, I scored a 3% on the interpersonal relationship scale of the DISC assessment. I couldn’t leave my house without a feeling of dread in my stomach and a thin layer of Pringles dust on my increasingly sweaty hands. I was an introvert to (what I believed was) the nth degree, a powerless and cowering fool of a girl, one that nobody could take seriously.
Then one day I was skimming book titles on Amazon and glanced upon Never Eat Alone. I didn’t buy the book, but the title stuck with me. It seemed ludicrous. Never eat alone? Like, go eat with other people? All the time?
The fact that it was so terrifying was what tipped me off to doing it in the first place.
Seeking a new challenge, I committed to take on networking as a fun game, a purposeful and awesome plot twist on my story of personal self growth. The goal? To meet with over 100 business owners and executives one-on-one in Philadelphia within the next year.
“Never Eat Alone” became my personal mantra, though I adapted it to “Never Eat Lunch Alone”. Dinners, I figured, could remain my own.
I met with so many business owners and executives that I lost count of exactly how many meetings I had. Despite being poor and fresh out of grad school, my monthly networking budget was $72 greater than my grocery budget. I lined up multiple lunches and coffee dates each week. I designated two days a week for meetings located in the suburbs so I could line up sessions by proximity to save on time and money.
My LinkedIn network of individuals I had met with grew 800% in less than 2 years. I attended over 20 networking events, 6 of which I would not have been able to attend without receiving a personal introduction from someone I had met. I am now able to engage in conversation without a sweaty handshake or nervous hair twirl. When job hunting, I am able to request introductions to CEO’s, founders, and executives of companies that interest me. Making new connections is now an exciting endeavor rather than a crushing defeat.
The power I developed out of business networking has shown up in other areas of my life as well. My wardrobe, once chock full of dumpy grayscale items, is now a mixed bag with tons of color and style. I learned to laugh out loud in public, to wear flashy jewelry and not feel ridiculous, and to stride confidently without any conscious effort.
Best of all? I am fully aware that I’ve caused these changes. I brought them into being with purpose and to great success.
I’ve since taken on other self-growth challenges, and with each one I am more and more enlivened and empowered.
I will always be an introvert. I still find myself most comfortable in quiet, low-sociable situations. But I am now proud of who I am, and the life I designed and created through my commitment to pushing my comfort zones and gaining expertise in previously foreign areas.
Words of Advice
Here is my advice to other introverted women who are looking to gain power, comfort, and results in the area of interpersonal business relationships:
- Think of networking as a game, a way to push your comfort zones while developing relationships, rather than a crude form of developing influence, being salesy, or getting what you want. This shift in perception can do wonders for your motivation.
- When your meeting companion mentions a book or article of interest to him or her, go home and read it-- then follow up with your thoughts on the subject. This opens up a way to continue engaging with your new connection outside of the meeting.
- Find a way to be useful to others. Be authentic, genuine, and sincere instead of agenda-driven.
- Send consistent follow ups, check ins, and updates. Whenever I get home from a networking meeting, I set a reminder to reach out to the person again in 30, 60, or 90 day intervals-- whatever feels appropriate based on the meeting and person.
- Last but not least, find mentors who believe in good karma over keeping score. Whether they are business moguls or the most fabulously charismatic woman you’ve ever met, your growth will more than triple thanks to the guidance and advice of a seasoned expert. Just remember that it’s your job to take return your mentor’s time and reputation investment with interest.
For other good reads on introverted networking, these are two books I actually did purchase and read, and highly recommend:
- The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
- Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
Now, go forth and set up your first three meetings! And if you’re located in the Philadelphia area, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for introductions or advice. I am always happy to help and I love making new connections.