Mid-term for Schmoozing 301: Introverts v. Extroverts
March 11, 2007 6:40 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to create an environment that aids my fellow Introverts toward schmoozing with the cult of Extroverts without causing distress to either type?

I understand Extroverts ("Type e") want to meet as many people as possible and tend to spend less than 10 minutes on any one person while networking.

Contrasted with Introverts ("Type i") expending 30+ minutes of their networking time talking with a few interesting people and thus forgetting/avoiding to work the room. My personal belief is this is so "Type i"s don't have to look for another schmoozing partner.

So, woe to the "Type e" who gets trapped for a 30-minute toe-to-toe conversation with an "Type i". Or, so I've been told.

One Essay Question for the Mid-term Exam
Imagine you are in the room at the event to schmooze for friends and/or business connections.

As either a "Type i" Schmoozer or "Type e" Schmnoozer, what has to happen in the room to get these two oil-and-vinegar types to mix it up and buzz about the event when they gather around the coffee pot or water cooler the next day?

10 extra credit points for indicating whether you are a "Type e" or "Type i" in your response.

This examination is complete when your answer is posted.

Good Luck!
posted by choragus to Human Relations (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I hate referring to people as types, but I think the more social people have to put the less social people on the spot, and encourage them to talk. Of course, if you actually try to arrange anything like this--putting people into types and telling them what to do--it'll all come off feeling like a social experiment, leaving everyone wondering if any of the camaraderie was genuine.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:56 AM on March 11, 2007

My understanding of the difference between extrovert and introvert is different. Extroverts get their energy from being around people whilst introverts find being around people draining.

Both types are capable of either 30 minute sessions or 'meet as many people as possible' sessions. The difference is extroverts can do it day in day out, whereas the longer the introvert does this, the more they need 'time alone' to recover their energy.

At least this is what I have been taught on my project management and people management courses. And for the record, I'm borderline extrovert/introvert.
posted by tobtoh at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tobtoh's explanation of extroverts/introverts echoes what I've learned in my psychology courses as well.

It would be helpful to know if you were asking because you were planning an event (or if you're asking simply because you are curious). If you are actually planning something, the only thing that I could draw from this would be to make sure that the event doesn't come immediately after something else where your attendees were required to be super-social.

I would also add that an extrovert should never really feel "trapped"... (s)he can always call someone else into the conversation (helping the introvert expand his/her networking at the party) and then leave the conversation whenever he/she wants. At least that is what I do often.

I am a borderline extrovert/introvert.
posted by liberalintellect at 7:16 AM on March 11, 2007

Regardless of whether the introvert/extrovert dichotomy is real, the answer to the question, is "Provide alcohol".
posted by roofus at 7:26 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm an extroverted introvert. I'm a definite introvert who generally forces herself to behave in an extroverted manner (because it's healthier sometimes). So I don't think everyone is just type e or i, many people are both.

I would say the best way to get both types to mix it up would be if something unusual happened that commanded the attention of everyone in the room and gave them a mutual experience that they would then have in common. Mutual experience tends to break people's boundaries down, it creates a bond between them which makes them feel less like strangers to eachother.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:28 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

On preview... oh yeah, alcohol can help bring people together at the event. But some people might also be avoiding eachother at the water cooler the next day...
posted by miss lynnster at 7:30 AM on March 11, 2007

Yep, I'm with tobtoh; insofar as E/I is even a genuine categorization, it's more about whether being around lots of people makes you excited & energetic or irritated & tired.

The distinction you're talking about, that certain people seem to cling to one conversation partner "so 'Type i's don't have to look for another schmoozing partner," seems to be more about shyness or social anxiety of some sort. As long as it hasn't reached a clinical level, where they're genuinely terrified of approaching new, unknown people, then it seems like the right approach would be gentle encouragement to mingle more and for shorter periods. Maybe explicit instruction in this direction if some people have trouble reading social cues - I think good networkers send pretty clear signals when they're ready to move on. Clingers just need to read the signals and roll with the punches.

I just noticed I've been describing one group as smooth and social, and the other as anxious and clingy; this is because I assume what you're talking about are business networking events, and I think there are right and wrong ways to socialize in that setting (shorter / more casual is better; if two people think they have something to offer each other, swap cards and move on). Now, none of this would apply at a purely social, friendly event like a house party. In that case, it's totally OK to go either way and I don't really think there should be pressure in either direction - just let people hit it off.
posted by rkent at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

As either a "Type i" Schmoozer or "Type e" Schmnoozer, what has to happen in the room to get these two oil-and-vinegar types to mix it up and buzz about the event when they gather around the coffee pot or water cooler the next day?

Why do they have to mix? Yes, it's a serious question. Most introverts I've hung out with tend to hate being "forced" to mingle with people for not real reason. Because the cute way this thing is phrased makes you sound like some "Office Space" manager who's going to be butt of many introverts jokes while doing a great job of defeating your main goal.

This seems like it depends on the specific people in your group. Is there an extrovert that the introverts connect with? Have him/her hang with an introverts, while bringing along a few other extroverts. Is there an outgoing introvert? Have him/her circle the room.

Also, have the meeting in a place where introverts can escape for a few minutes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2007

It's like mixing oil and water. The trick is to make sure the extroverts don't all glob together and the introverts glob together in two separate groups. You need to keep it mixing.
posted by wackybrit at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2007

Extroverts get their energy from being around people whilst introverts find being around people draining.

And likewise, I think that extroverts often find introverts to be kind of draining. I have extroverted tendencies, and sometimes I come away from conversations wondering "did that person hate me, or are they just introverted like that?"

My best suggestion - give the people something to talk about. Have something going on at the event, or even better, have a few things going on. I've found that the easiest way to start a conversation with anybody, introverted or otherwise, is to make a comment about some notable or interesting thing that's going on in front of you.

And for the record, I sort of straddle the border between introvert in extrovert border. How I interact with people will often depend on my mood. I certainly have the ability to be extroverted, but sometimes (for whatever reason) I don't feel like it's worth the effort.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:59 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

The general rule for all social events like this, in terms of organizing it, is just making sure that the stuff people need -- nametags, drinks, food, tables, chairs, paper and pens, whatever -- are spread out around the space so that people have to keep circulating. It also gives people an easy excuse to leave a conversation ("I have to go get another drink") or to join a conversation (lots of people congregating by the food/drinks).

I also think that not providing chairs at all helps, but my views on that are changing a bit as I get older.

Much more social engineering than that will come across as forced, and will make the introverts hate you.
posted by occhiblu at 9:04 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Type "i" all the way, although I pretend to be "e" just to make it through exercises like this. [sigh]

Anyhow, there's a way to mix oil and water: The cook throws in an egg and keeps stirring to make mayonnaise. In more formal social events, cocktail parties, and the like, this role was performed by the host and hostess, or their friends:

"Darling, come with me! There's this simply divine professor I want you to meet! He's about to publish a fascinating treatise on horned toads!"

"Hey old chum, have you met Pennington? He's just returned from six months in Lower Slobbovia, the stories he can tell you..."

Notice that the intro also gives them something to start talking about.

This dynamic probably won't apply to somewhat disorganized casual networking "events," so common these days, but it does provide some clues. Get some people who are not just there to network for themselves, but who will also take on the role stirring-the-pot/shaking-the-salad-dressing/whathaveyou.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:06 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

My personal belief is this is so "Type i"s don't have to look for another schmoozing partner.

No doubt that's a factor, but (as a hardcore i by nature who has learned to fake being an e when needed), the real point is that small talk is annoying. Most i's don't want to waste time talking about what the weather is like or who won the big game or the lovely dinette set you saw on sale yesterday. We don't want to get introduced to thirty people, we want to make a deep enough connection with one or a few people that we can get into a deep, intellectually rewarding conversation. Maybe I don't meet everyone at a conference, but I normally do come away from one with one or two people that I can partner with on future projects, and who are on their way to becoming good friends. If I were forced to talk to a bunch of people for five minutes each, the whole thing would be pointless for me. It's the 30 minute conversation that gives me a foundation for future follow-up. I guess a have a problem with your underlying thesis, which seems that the extroverts are doing it "right" and the introverts need to be fixed. We introverts are doing what works for us. I recommend you read this article.

My personal belief is that extroverts don't want to do the work it takes to have a good, deep conversation, so they keep flitting from person to person so they don't have to.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2007 [8 favorites]

+1 afroblanco, +1 Pater Aletheias.

I enjoy meeting people and getting into conversations with them if there's a point of mutual interest. But I'm lousy at small talk and no doubt come across as introverted (or standoffish) in situations where the conversation moves past me.

So give people a reason to be talking to each other. That'll at least work for the "introverts." I don't know if there are people who would find earnest conversations (as opposed to small talk) to be unpleasant; if so, this won't work for them
posted by adamrice at 9:49 AM on March 11, 2007

I'm pretty hard-core introverted (and I favor tobtoh's description, I do fine, but feel exhausted around too many people). Here's what I'd like in an "event".

There are more outgoing "minglers" than introverts, but there are a good half-dozen, at least, introverts there. The event is "about" something the introverts have confidence in (i.e., there are going to be some pre-defined topics of conversation, and I know something about it.) That way, I don't have to worry about what I'll talk about or if I'm going to say something stupid. Maybe I don't ever actually end up looking stupid (that I know of, heh), but it's not a reality thing, it's a confidence thing. There should be a side room or outside location, somewhere where I can go hide for a short time, and preferably find a couple of other people doing the same thing (hiding.) That's when the best conversations happen, in my experience, and the conversation starts itself. "So, you're hiding too, eh? Yep." The host should periodically come drag the hiders back out, though, like Robert Angelo mentioned. And alcohol helps (me), as long as I don't get carried away.

Example I'm familiar with: the (US Navy) Submarine Birthday Ball. There's a dinner with a speaker, but it's not too long. There are lots of extroverts. There are quite a few introverts. Submarines will be discussed, which I know something about, but not exclusively, so it won't be dull. I will see people I work with there, but also people I don't know, and even people I knew long ago but lost touch with (small world surprises). We all have something in common, but I don't know every one of their stories already. (this is why office parties suck). It starts off structured, but then slowly degenerates into the party scene at the beginning of Das Boot. It's my favorite event ever, and I wouldn't miss it, even though I hate being around people normally. If you know a submariner, make him take you.

So if there's something in there you can use, well, there you go.

Preview: +10 Pater Aletheias
posted by ctmf at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's more to being an introvert (I'm one).

We pre-form our thoughts, then say them. The thoughts form the structure of the conversation. The talk is only a reporting on what is going on inside. The energy is internal and the talk follows.

Extroverts prefer the mode in which what is said, not what is thought, provides the structure. The conversation happens, and you play along with it. It's more improvisational and participatory. This mode is better for small talk, in which external forms (standard exchanges, banters) provide the structure. The energy is in the talk and the internal experience follows.

Like I said, I'm an introvert. I have done the extrovert mode and enjoyed it: Flirting, for instance. You play, you bob on the surface like a cork, you get energy from the talk.

But most of the time, I follow introvert patterns.

Now, I can play along, especially if there's a game or a theme or a subject -- something silly, not too much, but enough to keep the mind working on internal lines while enjoying the outside. Have you thought of mixer games? A point or purpose? (I enjoy Halloween parties more than the average.)

Just being turned loose in a room and expected to punch and jab and banter and participate -- feh. I'll sniff out your library and a comfortable armchair. Or I'll go home.

And yes, I forgive you the whiff of condescension (how can we help these poor retarded beings come out of their shells and be like us?) as I've encountered it before.
posted by argybarg at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, on re-reading your post, I take back my last paragraph. I must have been touchy.
posted by argybarg at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2007

I'm one of those rare birds that is very extroverted in a group of people that I already know-totally the life of the party and can be counted on to keep things hopping. In a situation where I am supposed to be interacting with people that I don't know, I am a complete introvert almost to the point of a panic attack and hiding. In fact, I went to a New Years Eve party this past December with people that I knew slightly, in that we'd met at other parties and social situations, but couldn't be construed as aquaintances to say hello if we saw each other in the grocery store.

My very extroverted friend that we all had in common had made every effort to include me and my husband in the conversations and excitement going on, but I was so uncomfortable in trying to have conversations with these people that we left well before midnight.

My point being, if I'm in a group of people I know well, I'm very comfortable and talkative-if I'm in a group of people that I have not much in common with, I clam up and finally just leave. To be honest, I'm not sure there's anything that the host could have done to help me out-it's just how I am.
posted by hollygoheavy at 11:26 AM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're considering a mandatory "it's been ten minutes -- everybody switch!" format, don't do it. I was at a party like that and nobody liked that part (not even me, and I lean E and was "trapped" in a discussion with a fascinating I).
posted by beatrice at 12:00 PM on March 11, 2007

I second everything Pater Aletheias says. I'm an introvert who can be extroverted if I want to, but it's a conscious effort.

I learned how to "work the room" at events where I wanted to make a lot of contacts, but I didn't actually care about the people I was meeting. My goal was to collect a lot of business cards and hand them off to someone else to call them all later. I can do it, but I have to make up my mind to do it.

If I meet someone who just wants to make contact and then move on to the next person, I don't interpret that as a symptom of being "Type E". People who make contact and flee quickly are signalling to me one of two things: either they're not very interested in developing a relationship with me, or they don't have a very clear idea of what they're looking for.

It's similar when the event is social, not business. At a party, I can flit from one 10-minute conversation to the next when I'm not looking for friends, just some chatter with a bunch of people whose names I won't remember the next day. Alcohol is pretty much required to put me in that mood.

I'd much rather have good conversations with a small number of people. That's the starting point for a real relationship. So what's your real goal for the event? Do you want people to walk away with a ton of superficial contacts, or a small number of promising potential relationships?

If you genuinely want people to just make a lot of quick contacts, set up the physical space to prevent anything but superficial conversation. Make sure that everyone's standing. Make the entire space open and a bit too small for the crowd, so that it's hard to find a space to talk one-on-one. Put the bar to the side so that the butterflies can excuse themselves to go get a drink. Break up the rhythm with annoucements, games, anything that grabs everyone's attention away from what they were talking about. If you really want people looking for relationships to either switch to mingling or leave, then add some loud music.
posted by fuzz at 12:19 PM on March 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try recommending fellow introverts this book: The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. It's a nice refresher on some deceptively obvious concepts about communicating with others, whether you identify as either intro- or extro-.
posted by deern the headlice at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2007

i'm assuming you're doing this for a reason. that said, i personally am of the opinion that some sort of imposed talk and switch system would be effective, especially if combined with a less structured time when people could follow up on particular meetings if they wanted to. of course some people would hate it, but some (like me) would hate it less than being thrown into a large unstructured social situation full of strangers. as far as i'm concerned, you're exactly right about the initiating conversations part being the hard part.

another way to accomplish something similar would be some sort of assignment, like a survey or something where people were supposed to collect a certain number of responses. this gives people who need one an excuse to approach others. it could be painful to have to do, but would sort of force the issue (assuming that poeple actually consent to play along)
posted by lgyre at 2:37 PM on March 11, 2007

I think the trick is giving the introverts something to talk about. My husband and I (both definite I's) had a great wine-tasting party many years ago to help us pick the vino to serve at our wedding. We provided various wines and notepads for people to rank their favorites. There was enough structure that the introverts weren't frightened of by free-form schmoozing with people they didn't know. The fact that there was alcohol present helped but wasn't mandatory. We had similar success with a root-beer tasting party. (It turns out that how cold the root beer is makes more of a difference to the taste than the brand - colder is better.) In retrospect I think that introverts have a problem getting focus off themselves. If you're socially uncomfortable it helps to just have something else to think about. I'm not saying all introverts are socially uncomfortable but I am.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:55 PM on March 11, 2007

From a strictly party-planning perspective:

Ideally, the space should be ever-so-slightly too small for the number of people you are having at the party. This is only the case if it is a true party and not some other event. If you can't do this, have niches and sub-spaces that break up the space.

Your question is phrased as "how can I keep introverts from holding all the extroverts hostage?" The answer is to lay out the space so people have to move and bump into each other. Put the bar as far away from the entrance as humanly possible. Put the food away from that. Put something in the middle for people to trip on. Also-- provide very little seating.

If you have a lot of introverts-- you can cater to them by having one section or area that is quieter and more comfy. I prefer to do this.

Also, give people something to talk to each other about. I'm an introvert [I throw parties because it gives me an excuse not to attend them] but the most comfortable I ever felt at a party where I didn't know anyone was a friend's christmas-tree decorating party where we actually had to make ornaments. It doesn't have to be so hands-on though, you can achieve the same effect by having a "conversation piece". Be it a giant polar bear or a sculpture made of chili lights. Depending on your specific crowd, 80's music can do the same thing. If there is something that anyone can talk about, you've done well. The ice is already broken.

If the goal is business schmoozing a "card-exchange" format where you state that the goal is to meet and network with announcements being made to switch is totally fine and can work really well.
posted by Mozzie at 10:43 PM on March 11, 2007

There are quite a few excellent points made in the comment responses. And thanks to everyone for their time and effort.

A couple of comments:
Psychology and Social Psychology books don't even begin to tap into the Extrovert/Introvert typology. Myers-Briggs addresses the issue on teams not so much in unstructured environments where we are left to fend on our own.

I am an old hat at planning both social and business networking events...including pioneering speed networking events in San Francisco a few years back. I am just trying to hone in on some of my observations from the past. Many of the comments either reaffirmed my observations or stimulated additional thought.

Expect to see more of this type of question as my quota allows.

Great Optimism!
posted by choragus at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2007

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