Are Introverts Better than Extroverts at Online Networking?

I can make a case for why the answer could be Yes.

Discussing Introverts and Extroverts at Podcamp Western Mass 2013

Discussing Introverts and Extroverts at Podcamp Western Mass 2013 (Click to view my photo album on Facebook.)

At the recent Podcamp Western Mass (an unconference about social media), I led a session with this exact same title. I got both introverts and extroverts to give their opinions.

To make it easy for both introverts and extroverts to participate equally, I had folks move to a spot in the room that represented their opinion on questions like “Introverts should become more extroverted.”

Here’s a hint about the discussion outcome. One of the extroverts said something like this at the end:

“I wish I was more like an introvert. I need to work on my skills of listening and focusing on what matters most.” ~Extrovert attendee

I think more than a few introverts in the room were gratified to hear that.

Actually, three of the introverted attendees blogged about their impressions so you can hear from them directly: Jennifer Williams, Karo Kilfeather, Katrina Hawley. It sure has gotten some good conversations flowing since the event, online and offline, by both introverts and extroverts.

One of the introvert attendees in the session decided after the session to take the brave step of leading his own session later in the day. I attended his talk on body language and it was outstanding.

What Is Introversion?

Let’s get this straight. Introversion does not mean anti-social or shy. It is about a preference for recharging alone or in a trusted circle. Extroverts prefer recharging through socializing. These preferences affect how they each choose to socialize.

Unfortunately many people misinterpret introverts’ different socializing style as being anti-social. In fact, introverts have many strengths that help them with online and offline socializing. (For more details about introversion in general, see clarification about introversion.)

ARE Introverts Better than Extroverts at Online Networking? 

The skills needed for interacting effectively online are well suited to introverts. The nature of online interaction allows them more time to think before speaking, which is a common preference for introverts.

Once there’s time to think, an introverts’ social skills can shine. Studies show that introverts read the social environment in more detail and accuracy than extroverts. That’s quite an asset for interacting online or offline. (This research is found in Quiet, by Susan Cain.)

Since extroverts tend to talk before thinking or before reading what’s going on, they can easily get in some trouble with communication. On the one hand, it helps them take more risks, which is important, but on the other hand, it leads to more communication mishaps and wasted effort.

On the flip side, introverts can sometimes over-think before speaking, and they risk not speaking up at all. Ugh, been there.

Wouldn’t it be nice to find the middle ground between introvert thinking and extrovert action? (Tip: Involve both introverts and extroverts in decision making for best results.)

We all carry strengths and challenges for socializing. The key is to know what they are and then to maximize the strengths and minimize the challenges. Once I learned about introversion and our natural strengths, I could have easier access to my strengths instead of losing steam trying to be someone I’m not. Big relief.

How to Maximize Your Networking Strengths as an Introvert or Extrovert

We were having so much fun in the Podcamp session that I don’t think I got to fully make this important point. So it’s a bonus tip…

I discovered this one simple method for maximizing your effectiveness with online or offline communication. It helps whether you’re introverted or extroverted:

Get out of your head and into your heart.

Your heart is literally the part of you that reads the environment and knows how to focus on what matters. The head is the home of fear, over-thinking, and losing focus. But the heart knows the way. (This is evidence-based.)

When you feel stressed or unfocused, pause and tune into your heart. You’ll find your way from there. Your heart will give your head the information it needs to act. This really works — for both introverts and extroverts. Your heart is your source of clarity and confidence… and slowing down.

For a better explanation, here’s how one introvert described how this idea helped her:

“You hit the nail on the head when you made me realize that my passion was the key….not only does it help me to feel more comfortable but …it makes me an even better conversationalist, and I find that the more successful conversations I have, the better I feel about the whole ‘networking’ thing to begin with! You have ‘unlocked’ me Val!! You helped me find my voice!”
~Julianne Krutka, realtor

Gratitude for My Fellow Podcampers

As with every year, Podcamp is one of my favorite events of the year because there’s something about it that works for both introverts and extroverts, unlike many events.

And it truly warms my heart that so many people were talking about introverts, both during the day at Podcamp and afterwards. Thank you Podcampers!!

I think I might have to start a regular introvert gathering because we have a lot to say. Really. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: the fabulous Seth Kaye Photography

 

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  • Joe Cascio, Jr.

    Sign me up for the introvert gathering. And it doesn’t have to wait for Podcamp!

    • Val Nelson

      Thanks Joe. I think you are on my email list so you’ll hear when I know.

  • Mary Wiseman

    Thanks for leading our sessions….and for the great recap!

    • Val Nelson

      Thanks Mary!!

  • PEYTON

    Insightful post, thank you. I just bought Quiet, by Susan Cain and hope to read it soon!

    • http://www.valnelson.com/ Val Nelson

      You’re welcome. Thank you.
      You will love Quiet. So well written and hugely enlightening. Makes you rethink everything from politics to parenting.