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Four Survival Tips for the Introverted Entrepreneur

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 16, 2007

cat-2.jpg I received an interesting question about yesterday’s post on entrepreneurs trying to overcome shyness at networking events. 

“Liz, I ‘ve taken the Myers-Briggs test and discovered that I am an introvert. So, I really can’t help being shy or inept at networking. What can I do?”  – Amy

 Amy,

You’re not alone in confusing introversion with shyness. But in reality, they are not the same thing.  While half of all people are shy,  only one in four are introverts. This means that while you can be a shy introvert, you can also be a shy extrovert. 

Shyness is an excessive preoccupation with yourself.  When we feel shy, we feel like everyone is watching us and judging us.  It is a learned behavior. It can also be a response to a new situation such as a move, a new job, or meeting a lot of new people. Since shyness is situational and learned, it can be overcome with training and behavior modification.  

Introversion, on the other hand, is physical.  You can’t train yourself to be less introverted any more than you can train your eyes to be less blue.  Introversion is caused by the way your brain functions

Introverts have more natural cortical activity in their brains than extroverts.  Since they already have a lot of stimulation occuring in their brains naturally, they can be overloaded by social interaction.  Introverts report being drained by being around other people. They need to withdraw into solitary activities in order to re-energize.

Extroverts are just the opposite.  Since they have less natural cortical activity in their brain, they seek out external stimuli such as interaction with other people. Extroverts report feeling energized by interaction with other people. They actively seek it out.

So, back to your question, Amy – can introverts be effective networkers?

As an introvert myself, I say, yes, definitely, introverted entrepreneurs can be effective networkers, and may even come to enjoy networking, if they follow these suggestions:

  • Pace yourself!  Don’t overload your schedule with networking events.  If you are at a conference, be selective about which events you attend. Just because it is on the agenda, doesn’t mean you need to show up.  Spend the time taking a walk, reading a book or surfing the internet – you’ll have more energy to give to the events you do attend. 
  • Time yourself ! Decide ahead of time how long you are going to spend at any given event and then stick to it.  If you know you are only going to be there for an hour, you can rise to the occasion and give it your all.  But if you don’t know how long you will have to stay, it can be much more difficult to endure.
  • Accept yourself! Being introverted is much less accepted in American society than being extroverted.   People will misinterpret your need to be alone as rudeness.  Don’t be tempted to try and explain.  Just say that you wish you could attend, but you can’t. It’s the truth and it respects your limitations.
  • Embrace yourself! Introverts tend to be very analytical, and competent at solitary pursuits such as writing, painting, computer programming and accounting.  Introverts tend to have engaging  personal hobbies such as reading, gardening, hiking or meditating.  These pursuits can make you an interesting and valuable social companion during the times you do participate.

So, Amy, by following these tips, and honoring your own internal needs, you will become a most effective networker.

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One Response to “Four Survival Tips for the Introverted Entrepreneur”

  1. Angie said

    I never realized there was a difference between being shy and being introverted. This post and the one before it on shyness gives me some good ideas on overcoming my shyness. Thanks!

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