I’ve lost count of how many times people tell me: “I can’t network, I hate it, I’m such an introvert”.
To this I say: “Rubbish! That’s an excuse. Introverts make awesome networkers, you simply have to follow your energy and network in the right way for you”.
People fall on a spectrum of being extroverted/introverted, yet we continue to make judgments and place ourselves, and each other, into packaged boxes with beautifully labelled, exclusive descriptions. For supposed introverts, this can be debilitating from a career perspective as they are often viewed as unsociable, shy and lacking leadership qualities.
But, Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung said:
“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in a lunatic asylum”.
So how do we get past the binary labels and negative judgments?
After all, famous introverts have changed the world. Gandhi changed the direction of an entire nation. Warren Buffet pledged to give away 99% of his enormous wealth to philanthropic causes. Rosa Parks’ brave protest kick-started the modern African-American civil rights movement. Bill Gates created some of the world’s most impressive technological breakthroughs.
Charles Darwin is celebrated for his inner curiosity and J.K Rowling is renowned for her inner imagination.
“Every time I’ve taken a Meyers-Briggs test, I score high on the introversion scale”, said Douglas Conant, who took over as president and chief executive of Campbell’s Soup in 2001. Before Conant’s appointment, the company was at rock bottom with falling stock, a toxic culture and disengaged employees.
Conant turned Campbells around and became famous for his quiet approach. He walked the talk quite literally — clocking up to 10,000 steps a day walking through the office, engaging with his team. He also wrote more than 30,000 handwritten letters — up to 20 a day — to employees celebrating their successes and contributions. Like many introverts, Conant’s interest was in building quality relationships.
Adam Grant, author and a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, found introverted leaders delivered better outcomes than extroverted leaders. Why? Because they were more likely to encourage proactive employees with good ideas to run with them and get the credit they deserved, whereas extroverted leaders were at risk of claiming the credit.
It’s important to get familiar with your natural state and stop faking it till you make it.
If you feel like you err on the introverted side of the spectrum then learn to embrace your calm, measured and thoughtful approach. Accept and value your ability to develop ideas independently and with reflection. It’s absolutely okay to want to be on your own, to turn down the invitation to that event, to not love networking.
Own the value you bring to thinking, debate, conversation and idea generation. Connect in your own way. Harness your introverted strength, because you and your opinions matter, and introverts have changed the world.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.