Dispelling Old Rules of Networking

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The non-negotiable premise of quality networking is to be yourself. Your personality is the foundation from which to build. Attempting to transform yourself into another person will leave you dazed, confused, and exhausted.

I cannot condone such reckless behavior.

At the start of my career I attempted to emulate other successful presenters. Rookie mistake. I soon dropped this approach, broke a lot of rules, and became myself at home and at work. I crack jokes, keep it lively, and merge spontaneity with structure. You are how you are for a reason; being authentic is the best thing that can ever happen to you. It also guarantees you’ll make the maximum positive impact in the world.

If you are overwhelmed, try to start enjoying the ride instead of dwelling on what you should do. “Should” is not very inspiring. In fact, notice when you tell yourself you “should” engage in some kind of networking behavior: I should interject myself into that group of people already in conversation. I should stay out late with the others. I should make more small talk at every opportunity. Perhaps you’ll notice that should nearly always means you should not. You should never say “should.”

The old rules are limited; they work for the 15 percent of the population who identify strongly as extroverts. Centroverts and introverts do not benefit from the old rules, so let’s take hold of the reins. Join me in turning three old-school networking premises on their heads.

Dusty Old Rule #1: Jump on In (Patter)

Let’s face facts: Extroverts can talk. Because they verbalize naturally, chatting comes easily. Extroverts talk to think. At times, this defining trait causes boundless aggravation for introverts; other times it spurs envy. They slide into networking mode with ease.

Jumping into conversations is one way to build contacts. Extroverts are quite comfortable talking with strangers—otherwise known as new friends. Extroverts like spending as much time as possible interacting with others. This is why a socially driven person is well-positioned to take the advice of this rule and run with it. But what about everyone else?

Sparkling New Strategy #1: Prep
When I ask extroverts to describe introverts’ strengths, “good listeners” frequently tops the list. This compliment seems to be an undisputed win for introverts, as extroverts are forthcoming about their own need for development in the same area.


Introverts are hardwired to think to talk. Owning this truism enables us to turn a potential shortcoming into a skill. Designate planning time to set goals and think through strategies prior to meetings. Implementing our first new networking strategy—prep—you can communicate with clarity and precision.

If chitchat does not naturally flow forth, focus on what you do have—a predisposition for keen observation and thoughtful responses.

Dusty Old Rule #2: Sell Yourself (Promote)

Self-promotion syncs with the extrovert disposition. Networking advice for extroverts promotes a high volume of ongoing interaction. Tips I have come across in this arena include:

  • Be visible always.
  • Share accomplishments freely.
  • Make every meal a networking opportunity.
  • Maintain constant contact.
  • Regularly update others on your business.

A sincere interest in getting involved provides extroverts with a diverse platform for selling their services. Quantity and frequency are valued.

Sparkling New Strategy 2: Percolate
Introverts are unlikely to kick off a relationship by talking about their innumerable fine attributes. Peak-functioning introverts, however, percolate. They permeate through the surface, infuse conversations with depth, display interest in others, and tap into a lively exchange. An introvert can filter through the superficial to learn a tremendous amount about and from others.


Introverts strive for depth in relationships and experience. Allow yourself to ease into building connections with introvert-friendly tactics. Percolating enables introverts to create deeper contacts with remarkably little time spent on self-promotion. Tap into your ability to ask well-formed questions and you’ll never again lose sleep over being at a loss for conversation. Quality questions build rapport—a slam-dunk for making a strong first impression.

Dusty Old Rule #3: Maximize Time With Others (Party)

This advice plays directly into the first precondition for a visa to Extroland: Be social! Extroverts revive their energy by spending lots of time with lots of people.

Joining groups and attending gatherings enables extroverts to revitalize their spirits. Holing oneself up in a hotel room on a business trip is counterintuitive and counterproductive for someone who gets an energy infusion from being with others.

Extroverts thrive in environments with activity. If this is you, fill your day, your life, your time with social events galore. There are many variations on this beloved Extroland treatise. Even when relaxing at home, extroverts might have several devices and screens going at once, preferring activity to silence. The more the merrier.

Sparkling New Strategy #3: Pace
Pace is shorthand for “pace yourself.” Why is this important? Introverts and centroverts do best when deeply engaged, whether in conversation, thought, or purposeful action. Enter our third glittering strategy: Pacing our activities factors in recharge time. Pacing yourself means creating a networking schedule that suits your temperament. Honor the amount of networking you can comfortably manage over a period of time while also taking breaks during an event. Build a connection. Retreat to refresh. Repeat.

Introverts and extroverts have different networking propensities: Extroverts collect. Introverts connect.

Extroverts flow through the room, casually bantering with whomever they meet. Introverts seek targeted interactions. The upshot? Extroverts collect a bigger stack of cards; introverts connect through deeper conversations. An increased understanding leads to a new appreciation of our opposites and a platform to build rapport across temperaments.

About the Author

Devora Zack is CEO of Only Connect Consulting and the bestselling author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, 2nd Edition, Managing for People Who Hate Managing, and Singletasking. Her books are translated into more than 45 language editions.

1 Comment
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Thank you Devora, for underscoring that "authenticity" is the groundwork for all networking. Your validation that it is "okay" to "come as you are" regarding your natural style preference should be liberating for us all. I think it many folks get caught up in the "work" part of "network." And, embracing your tips for how we can more effortlessly show up is a helpful reminder of how it can arise in a natural "flow."
Thanks! Energetically, Diane
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