Happy Sunday, Katy Lee here. This past week my business-type husband announced he was going to send me to a media networking conference. For some reason he thought this was an exciting idea, but me? Not so much. It took all I had in me not to run for the hills. You see, I am an introvert; a solitary person by nature. Just for the record, though, being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-sociable. It just means, please, for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t throw me into the middle of a crowded party and tell me to go mingle…or worse, go network.
Coming up with that opening line – that small-talk starter - is the biggest problem an introvert has. And what can make other people think we are anti-sociable.
But as a writer I’ve got pages and pages of witty dialogue to prove I know what sociable looks like. The clincher being, I’ve had hours to work on those scenes. And yes, I am one of those people who will come up with the perfect comeback or topic hours after the conversation is over… when it doesn’t matter anymore.
Now I’m not saying all writers fall into this personality trait. In fact, I have met many authors who are just as quick with their words in person as they are on the page, and I am unabashedly envious of you all, but I believe more writers than not would say they are quite content to barricade themselves into a room with nothing but their computer and their characters to talk to for days on end.
Sound familiar? You just might be an introvert.
Admitting it is the first step. The next is getting prepared to overcome it–because as much as you want to disappear into the shadows of the party, you can’t.
I attended a conference once where you had to write your name on your name tag along with one topic about yourself. Something that the other person could ask you about and you felt comfortable talking about. It was a great icebreaker, and it took the pressure off of me having to come up with something. They then could ask me about my topic, and conversations just bloomed from there. Before I knew it, I was mingling.
Unfortunately, we don’t walk around every day with name tags with topics about ourselves on them. I do think the world would be a friendlier place if we did though. Just saying. So how can you keep yourself from being a wallflower?
First off, you don’t need to be the life of the party. It’s okay to find a table where a couple people, probably people just like you, are sitting. But if they are just like you, it could end up to be a pretty quiet table…unless, you come prepared.
Think of a few standard questions you could use when you find yourself in a social situation. I read once a mystery writer who was a self-professed introvert had a standard question she would use in social atmospheres. She would go up to a complete stranger, ask them about their career (a very standard icebreaker for strangers) and then, she would tell them she was a mystery writer and ask, “Why would someone want to murder a person in your profession?” She said it never failed to lead to great conversations and even business relationships. Obviously, though, make sure you’re in the right setting for a question like that, or you could end up being removed from the building.
The Unlocked Secret: Starting the conversation is only the first step. It is critical that once you start it, you have an obligation to listen. When people realize you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will be more apt to listen to what you have to say after. Before you know it, your conversations will be blooming, and you’ll be networking.