If you're an extrovert in the business world, odds are you do a fair bit of networking. Research into social and business behaviors of different personality types has shown that extroverts are more likely to think networking is important and more frequently make time for it than introverts.
You also might assume that your sociable personality makes you a natural networker. But being outgoing doesn't automatically make you skilled at creating professional connections. In fact, some of the things that make extroverts good at socializing may hurt you in a business setting.
If you are an extrovert who frequents networking events, keep these six tips in mind if you want to successfully grow a business or advance your career.
1. Ask open-ended questions.
Research has found that extroversion is a strong predictor of narcissistic behavior. This means that the funny stories and crowd-pleasing conversation that makes you the life of the party are often about one topic: you.
This may not be a problem in social settings, but it can get in the way of making strong professional connections. To avoid the trap of talking too much about yourself, come prepared with open-ended questions you can ask other people.
Open-ended questions such as "How did you decide to make such a big career change?" or "I don't know much about that type of work – can you tell me about it?" invite answers of more than one word. By prompting the other person to give an in-depth response, you put the focus on them and avoid the risk of monologuing. This creates an opportunity for the two of you to make a genuine connection.
2. Put the other person at ease.
Your extroverted social instincts aren't all handicaps: A study on conversational behaviors of introvert-extrovert pairs found that when extroverts perceived introverts were uncomfortable, they were likely to make comments mirroring that discomfort, such as "This feels really weird" or "Does this feel awkward to you too?"
Comments like these can break the ice and put your conversational partners at ease, allowing you both to acknowledge the strangeness of networking situations and laugh about it a little. Once you're both feeling more relaxed, you'll be more likely to have a genuine conversation that can serve both your professional interests.
3. Don't let your focus wander.
Are you often aware of what's going on with people around you, even when you're in the middle of a conversation?
You're not alone. Extroverts respond strongly to "oddball" social stimuli. This means that if something interesting happens in another area of the room or you notice a conversation that doesn't involve you, your attention is likely to shift in that direction.
Be aware of this tendency so you can use it to your advantage. If you notice someone looking for a group to join, bring them into your conversation. If you hear another group talking about something relevant to you or your new connection, merge the two groups and help everyone get to know each other. But be careful to always stay focused on the person in front of you, rather than appearing to search for a better conversational partner or an opportunity to escape.
4. Seek out a variety of people to speak with.
Extroverts, research shows, are more likely to be drawn to other extroverts. This may make for a fun and exciting social life, but professionally it could cause you to overlook networking opportunities simply because the other person is quieter than you are.
Avoid this trap by seeking out a variety of people to speak with, even if they don't seem particularly engaging or outgoing at first. At worst, you may have an awkward few minutes of conversation. At best, you may make a valuable connection.
Either way, you'll meet more people than you would otherwise, plus you'll likely earn the gratitude of people who aren't as savvy as you are at striking up conversations with strangers.
5. Demonstrate your other strengths.
Out of the Big Five personality factors, conscientiousness is most consistently linked to successful job performance. So rather than only showing people how social, outgoing or friendly you are, show them how conscientious you are too. For example, pay attention to what other people say so that you remember it and can reference it in later conversations.
Another strength that extroverts bring to the table? They are more likely to perform well as part of a team. Your personality will already show that you can stand out, so make an effort to work in a few anecdotes that demonstrate what a team player you can be too, especially if you are hoping to collaborate or find a new job opportunity.
6. Be ready to tone it down.
Unfortunately, even if you are doing everything right, your extroversion can sometimes work against you. That's because introverts are sensitive to personality traits and may form unfavorable impressions of people they perceive as too outgoing. Research even shows that introverts are more likely to give poor job performance ratings to extroverts, regardless of the actual work done.
The best thing you can do for your networking is to pay attention to the people you are speaking with and how they are reacting to you. If you feel like they are pulling away or showing some signs of disapproval, be ready to tone things down and give someone else a turn in the conversational spotlight.