Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m a self-proclaimed introverted-extrovert. If you know me personally, you’re probably surprised to read this. You likely know me as the outgoing girl that networks on the daily and can easily engage a room of strangers. The girl that enjoys public speaking, can host a meet-up at the drop of a hat, and does well on a panel. And you’re not wrong. While I actually enjoy all of those things, it takes me a bit to warm up and get there. But once I’m there, I’m fully there. It’s rare that anyone sees the shy side, but it’s there. Thankfully, I’ve learned to embrace it and work through it.

If it’s true what they say — that you’re a product of your childhood — then this all makes sense. Growing up, I was the kid who was loud, funny, inclusive, highly curious, and did well with an audience. In high school I was voted “Class Clown” and “Most Talkative,” and in my sorority I was the Social Chair. Are you following? But all of this worked to my advantage because I was in an environment that was familiar and I had various security blankets at any given point: family, friends, and places. Though, remove any one of those variables, and I was slightly timid, highly observant, and often times cautious. I couldn’t fully let loose or commit to an experience unless I knew the situation or felt comfortable learning more about it.

image by elise joseph

image by kate zimmermann

Ironically enough, I chose a career that requires a lot of networking, community building, public speaking and situations where I’m forced outside of my comfort zone.

Like anything, the more you practice, the better you are. Instead of having my shy side stop me from doing cool things or meeting great people, I learned early on to flip the script and embrace it.

Here are my modest tactics for stepping outside my comfort zone when it comes to networking.

image via après fete

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Years ago while living in LA, I would stop myself from going to an event if I didn’t have my security blanket (friend) in tow. There were times that I would wait in my car if they were running 20 minutes late so I had someone to walk in with. It pains me to think about everything I missed out on because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to go to an event alone. Now, I love when I don’t know who is attending an event, and I’m going solo. I get excited thinking about who the universe will introduce me to, and what kind of knowledge I’ll walk away with. The second I learned to embrace being uncomfortable, the less shy I was.

Something magical happens when we purposely and intentionally step outside of our comfort zones — we open ourselves up to so much more.

Pro-tip: do your fellow solo event go’ers a favor and say hi to them — we all know how awkward it can feel going alone, right?

image by hannah haston

Come equipped.

So what do you say or do so you’re not the one stuck at the crudité platter all evening by yourself? Unless that’s your goal, in which case I say, I always appreciate the asparagus that’s slightly cooked, but still cold. I can’t replicate that on my own. Anyway, I’ve got a few go-to’s in my arsenal that seem to do well, when I’m either hosting events or attending.

Convo question #1: “What are you excited about right now?”

I love this one because not only do you get to hear about someone’s passion, but it’s really cool to see people light up about something. I also love it because it eliminates the whole “what-do-you-do” and “where-do-you-work” question — which isn’t necessarily bad, but often times folks aren’t defined by their jobs. Plus, this one seems to add a personal and human touch, while events tend to get very surface-level.

Convo question #2: “How do you know the host or the speaker?”

I mostly just love hearing backstories and peeling away the layers to understand why they’re there. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered we have a mutual friend or experience in common. It’s the whole 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon in effect. We have more in common with people that we think or know.

If those questions seem to fail, people aren’t into it, the host can’t be found, and the crudité platter is empty, I like to plant myself near the check-in table. Chances are they are some of the friendliest of the bunch and can be great at helping facilitate intro’s if they’re not too busy.

image by tezza

Recharge.

In order for me to be fully engaged, I need the energy and brain space. I place a huge emphasis on re-charging and not using up all of my energy on one given day. If I know I’m giving a big talk in the evening, I try to keep my meetings and brain power to a minimum throughout the day. If I have an early-morning coffee meeting, I usually opt for extra sleep vs. a 5am workout so I’m not yawning throughout my morning. When I’m on vacation with my friends or traveling, I like my own room so I have the the option for personal quiet time and space to unwind. When sharing a room is the only option, I go out of my way to find any amount of alone time. It helps me come back to any situation, open up and stay present.

I hope that reading this helps the shy folks embrace their shyness and uniqueness, and understand what tactics work best for you when you’re outside of your comfort zone. And remember, if you’re not spending time being uncomfortable, you’re likely not changing, evolving and learning. I hope this resonates with you.

20 comments
  1. 1
    Marta | April 11, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Really amazing post, extremely helpful.

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Thanks so much, Marta!

      Reply
  2. 2
    Tory | April 11, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Relatable. Truth-telling. Thanks, Kelly.

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 11, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Tory!

      Reply
  3. 3
    Jenn | April 11, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Love this post! I’ve read so many posts on introversion and anxiety but it’s always nice to be reminded that it takes practice and initiative to be outside of your comfort zone. I also really enjoyed the conversation questions you included…I’ll be sure to use them!

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Thank you Jenn!

      Reply
  4. 4
    npharney | April 11, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    I think coming prepared with a couple of questions is key. It’s made networking so much easier for me, and it really puts the ball in the other person’s court and helps evade the awkward silences I hate the most. But don’t get so set on asking your questions that you don’t listen to what the other person is saying!

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 12, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Agreed. Active listening > passive listening.

      Reply
  5. 5
    elephay1 | April 11, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Being outside the confort zone is the best exercise. When I went to study abroad to the US I was scared I wouldn’t make friends… What worked for me was stop overthinking. And just go for it.

    Great post!

    xx, Melissa
    https://elephantontheroad.com

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Love that!

      Reply
  6. 6
    Marina | April 11, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    This is so helpful! Do you have any advice on following up with the people you meet?

    Reply
  7. 7
    Ted | April 12, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Gosh that’s clever l never thought about this !

    Reply
    • Kelly Krause | April 12, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks Ted!

      Reply
  8. 8
    Marla Isackson | April 13, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Great post! I try to do some homework in advance about people who may be attending the event. This way, I can come prepared with some specific convo starters. Marla Isackson, likeabossgirls.com

    Reply
  9. 9
    marialavender | April 17, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I love all of this advice so much! It’s super practical + helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    / Maria

    Reply
  10. 10
    Jamie M | April 18, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I loved reading this! I’m an introvert and it was SO refreshing it was to finally hear some advice on how to embrace my introversion. Far too often, I’m seeing advice from people that subtly shame people for being introverted, making us feel like there’s something wrong with it and ways to “fix” it in order to succeed in life. So thank you!! Great advice, too 🙂

    Reply
  11. 11
    Mary | April 19, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Loved this post! I’m totally going to use the “What are you excited about these days?” sometime soon. I hate asking people what they do and this is such a great insight and “real” conversation alternative!

    Reply
  12. 12
    Hannah | April 20, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Loved this post! While I’m a borderline extrovert and adore social events and parties and networking, I have always been uncomfortable attending events on my own. I like to have that “safety blanket” of a friend so I know I will never be standing around without someone to talk to. Your statement “if you’re not spending time being uncomfortable, you’re likely not changing, evolving and learning” really resonated with me! I definitely want to keep growing and evolving.

    Reply
  13. 13
    Susan Krzywicki | July 1, 2017 at 8:52 am

    The title would be more supportive of introverts if it said “AN INTROVERT’S GUIDE TO NETWORKING LIKE AN INTROVERT” – introverts don’t have to be extroverts. Introverts are just fine as they are. The tips are good, but the title again reinforces the muddle-headed view that the extrovert way is the best way. It is not. It is just different.

    Reply
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