My youngest child Betsie is one of those loud-at-home-but-very-shy-anywhere-else kids. It takes an enormous amount of encouragement to get her to talk to adults that ask her about school or how old she is or what she wants for Christmas. I once offered her money if she ordered her own food at a restaurant. (Bingo! Encouragement that works!) I expect Betsie to grow in her social skills as she gets older, and I have already seen growth in this area, and yet I expect she will always be a little quiet with new people.
A few months ago, I came across an article that a friend shared on Facebook about introverts. I was fascinated because I felt like I was reading an article about myself and Betsie. (And my oldest child Rachel too) I’m not rude, but small talk can be kind of exhausting if it’s not going anywhere. I like to be alone, but I also love to spend time with people in small groups. I am not a thrill seeker or the life of the party, but I enjoy meaningful relationships and conversations. Introverts love to talk. We just talk a lot to a few special people instead of to everyone we run into at the grocery store.
As an introvert, I think it is so cool to live in the age of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and the THRIVEal Yammer group allow me to take my time and think before I speak. In a real life group setting, I may miss the moment to add my two cents because I am not as quick to speak up as my extroverted friends. But social media allows me to participate on my own terms and in my own time, just as fully as anyone else. I can ignore the conversations that aren’t interesting or relevant to me, and I can jump into the ones that I enjoy.
I started participating in online forums back in 2000. Back then I was a newish mom and found some forums dealing with family issues and then eventually homeschooling. A little later I started a blog. (I’ve had a few over the years.) I slacked off on my blog once I joined Facebook. And over the last year and a half, I have been using social media for THRIVEal and Blumer & Associates, CPAs. One point that I have found particularly interesting about relationships developed via social media is that so much of the small talk can happen there. Then when I see my friends from Facebook or Twitter in real life, the relationship is easier and comes more naturally because we already know a little about each other. In other words, I have found social media is a tool to aid in building face to face relationships.
Fellow introverts, I want to let you know once and for all, your personality type is NOT a weakness. But you may want to make some adjustments in your networking strategy. If traditional networking events are torture, make connections online first or go with a friend. Or skip traditional networking altogether. Extroverts, if you have introverts on your team or in your customers base, try connecting with them in new ways. And for crying out loud, do not limit their use of social media in the workplace. You may be taking away one of their greatest tools.
Oh, and by the way, you can connect with me on twitter at @jenniferblumer.