While it may seem to you that I am an extrovert, I’m really a border line introvert/extrovert with the emphasis on the introvert. It’s not easy for me to break into groups – especially groups where I don’t know anyone. It always seems to me that everyone knows everyone and I am on the outside looking in. Has that ever happened to you?
Never fails – when I walk into a reception I notice all the faculty standing around talking to each other while the rest of us just look on. Over the years I learned how to be more successful in navigating these events. It’s really not that hard.
First, as introverts we have an advantage! We listen. I realized that I am a good listener and that people really like to talk about themselves. So that makes it easy. I let them do the talking and I do the listening. Now I’m connected.
The key for me is to prepare a question to ask and then listen. The question might be about the speaker we just heard, or the latest event happening on campus, or something in the news. It’s just an ice breaker. Or I ask them to tell me about themselves. That one always works.
I also figured out a few ways to gracefully navigate an “escape” from the person that goes on and on. One way is to say. “It’s been great talking with you and I promised ‘so and so’ that I would meet up with them at the break.” Sometimes I am really lucky and another person comes along. That is what I call divine intervention. I don’t feel guilty about leaving, the person talking now has a new person to engage.
As a female I find that it can be difficult at times. I remember this one time when I was at a reception that the Chancellor of the University System was hosting. I wanted to talk to the Chancellor about an important matter and get it on her radar. She was surrounded by a group of male faculty members. They knew where the power was.
My task at hand was how to I break into that circle and speak to her. I looked and found an opening in the circle. Stood there and listened to the conversation.
I had a plan. I was not going to shout my question from across the circle. I had to maneuver closer to where she was standing. So, I slowly kept moving around the circle until I could get right next to her. I did. When I was there standing next to her I engaged her with my question. Because of my proximity, I had her undivided attention.
Later a male faculty member said to me…I saw what you were doing, that was a pretty clever move.
I know you can be clever too.