Networking. Apparently, it’s a thing that adults do. The word has graced the lips of the most extroverted among us and is “the word who must not be named” around introverts. As someone with no experience in the business world, it can be difficult for young people such as myself to learn how to approach such social situations. While adults have networking and “the office water cooler”, we have conversations at parties and school. There are a few solutions that can be had though, presented by a reasonably social introvert.
Starting the Conversation:
The hardest part about conversations is what to talk about. We all know that. Sometimes, we don’t want to talk about the weather for the umpteenth time or we think the person across from us is so boring you could fall asleep. Luckily for you, I have some advice.
- Talk about what brought you together. You are in the same place at the same time. Why? Maybe it’s a school party, talk about why/how you decided to go. Maybe you’re walking next to each other on the way to class, talk about your last class or next class or perhaps a little friendly gossip. Use a question or a statement. All that matters are a few sentences!
- …but sometimes even that doesn’t work. Maybe the atmosphere isn’t right. Maybe they are terrible at school or have some huge secret that they don’t want to reveal. But now you’ve tried and you can’t bear any more of that awful deafening silence. Then what? Search really deep for a solid similarity. I’m not talking “we both like pizza” (although that could work in a pinch). I mean a true match in identity. Maybe you are the same gender, maybe the same race, nationality, generation. You don’t need to get political (unless the context is right- then I encourage it) but those that complain together, stay together. Just remember to keep things light and always smile.
Continuing the Conversation:
Great! You’re conversing (and hopefully laughing), but suddenly you feel it coming- that dreaded “lull”. You need to think fast:
- If they’re talking: ask a follow up question. This could not be easier. If they mention any type of opinion, ask them to clarify. Or if that doesn’t make sense, get curious. Ask about any detail they mentioned. Try to get comfortably personal and philosophical if possible to avoid any further lulls. Remember silences are natural so don’t panic!
- If you’re talking: keep talking if you have more to say and if you are worried about boring them, just ask for their opinion. If you think they’ve already stopped listening simply change the subject and ask another question. Questions are great because they take the pressure off of you to maintain the conversation and allow the other person an easy way to avoid awkwardness. Just avoid those dead-end one word answer questions.
Putting it to the Test
Over the weekend, I tried these tips as I had dinner with four people I will be going to college with next year. I had never met them before and they were all quite introverted, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test my own advice. I admit we did mainly use Tip 1a, but it is the best and most useful, so I fully condone that. We basically covered the basics that you discuss when you first meet people, which is definitely necessary. We avoided conversation starters and most conversations were pretty natural. One last thing to remember: if someone raises a question, they most often have an answer prepared. The best way to keep the conversation going after you answer their question is with a simple, “what about you?”
Conversation is not always going to be stimulating, especially at first. Once you hit it off with someone though, you can naturally discuss other bigger topics. Meeting people is supposed to be fun, so just remember to relax!
Are you an introvert dealing with how to socialize? Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment below!
Also, be sure to watch this amazing video on how to network professionally if you’re an introvert:
Edited by Viveca Shearin