I have a confession.
I used to think I was an extrovert.
After all, I’ve never had qualms about speaking in public. I’ve never felt anxiety around being the new kid in the room.
And there was a time in my self-employed career when I was sure that my perfect job would consist of nothing but attending events, shaking hands and getting to know people.
That is — as long as I didn’t have to actually sell anything.
As soon as you add the word “sales” to the mix, a tiny part of me shuts down.
Even if the wonderful thing I’m selling is me.
Then, one day (via an online test I’m sure I found on Facebook) I learned I’m actually an introverted extrovert. (Or, if you prefer, an extroverted introvert.)
I love teaching, visiting and building new relationships — but I need lots of personal time to recharge my batteries.
And if I’m not super careful, I can slip into a semi-hibernation state of happy-to-work-from-home for weeks at a time.
(Especially now that I’ve got real live people living in my house.)
The desire or “need” to write a blog post, fix something on my website, or respond to just one more email makes it so nice to stay put.
So yes, most days, I love my cozy yoga pants more than the privilege of talking with someone heart-to-heart, eyeball-to-eyeball. It’s just plain easier.
Maybe you can relate?
Do you feel like it’s simpler and faster to text than to talk?
To email someone than to call?
To post something on Facebook versus writing someone a letter?
Do you prefer your perfectly coiffed avatar to your real-life image?
You’re not alone.
There’s a LOT of us who feel that way. And the interesting thing is that we’re not even teenagers.
Does that make us all introverts? Or just shy? And do you think it hurts your ability to attract and build new professional relationships?
I’m thinking, yes. Yes, it does.
Look, there’s no denying technology is incredibly useful. (What the hell did we do before we had the internet?!)
But there are a few drawbacks.
While we might be communicating faster, the depth of our personal connections has been all but lost.
All those ties we’ve created online? The fans, the friends, the followers? They’re generally weak ties.
Which means they’re great for sharing new opportunities and information, but not so much for generating real action.
How many of your Facebook friends are likely to bring you soup when you’re sick?
And it’s because the sheer number of people online (who’ve brought their marketing noise with them) is at an all-time high.
It’s more likely that in today’s online world, you’ll be tuned out than noticed for the unique individual you are.
Real action (the kind you want from customers) requires real trust.
Real caring. Deeper, more meaningful relationships.
The kind that tends to develop when two people are in the same room, looking each other in the eye.
Granovetter, the author of The Strength of Weak Ties, agrees:
I get it. There are pros and cons to building a business online vs. offline.
When I started my first business in 2006, I built it mostly without the help of digital or online strategies.
My process was simple: attend at least one event per week. (At the very beginning, it was closer to one event per day.)
My goal was to meet as many people as I could and plug into the community. To understand who knew whom. To find out who the movers and shakers were and where the real business happened.
Within a year, most business folks across the entire county at least knew who I was. And? I was exhausted.
I knew I needed a different approach.
When I moved to San Jose, I left my extensive network (mostly) behind.
And knowing that I might move again someday soon, I decided to build the next iteration of my business online. I wanted ease and portability more than anything.
Three and half years later, I’ve learned that digital noise levels make building a biz solely online an equally exhausting battle.
The answer lies somewhere safely in between.
Now that I’m settled in Portland, it’s time to find that balance.
I’m back to attending (at least weekly) an outside-the-house event. Making eye-contact with humans. Listening to their stories.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about people if you truly listen.
And it’s even more incredible how quickly people respond after you’ve spent quality time really hearing them.
As an introverted extrovert, how do I get there? By seeking out (surprise, surprise) meetings that include a meal.
Look, if you consider yourself even the tiniest bit shy, if you hate the idea of giving your elevator speech one more blessed time, there are lots of ways to work around your fears.
But there’s something special about breaking bread with others that helps us truly relax and open up.
Pass the salt?
My theory is that the physical acts of dishing up food, passing condiments and cutting our meat into bite-size pieces allow us to feel more at home with each other.
When our brains have something physical to focus on, the nervousness subsides. We’re willing to be just a bit more vulnerable with each other.
And that’s when our relationships deepen, blossom and grow.
When I figured that out, I knew I had to make this a pillar activity of my business.
It’s why I’ve created an in-person event that involves cooking and eating together.
The idea has rolled around in my brain for months. Earlier this year, I finally made the commitment: The Storytelling Soiree is happening!
Yes, we’ll be working on various aspects of our marketing messages. But more importantly, we’ll be connecting. Creating strong ties that’ll bind us to each other as well as to our missions.
Your presence there will make this event even better. Please join us. << Visit this page for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Soiree!
I’ve found the perfect space and we’ll keep this one small (just 50 people).
There’ll be lots of engaging learning activities as well as opportunities for you to connect and strengthen ties with others.
Come hang out with your friends and colleagues. Come share a story around the campfire.
I promise you won’t be disappointed.
And if you can’t come to Portland, find an event in your neighborhood that includes a sit-down meal. It’s time to eat!
This post is part of the May 2014 Word Carnival. Our theme this month entails the hows and whys to getting off your computer and out into the real world. For more ideas, visit WordCarnivals.com.