Deep/Wide


So I learned something about myself: I don’t actually hate networking. It turns out that I just hate extravert networking.

Allow me to explain:

In an uncharacteristic sprint of social activity, I managed to attend two events in one week that one might describe, loosely, as “networking opportunities”. It was as if the universe had conspired to provide bookend examples of Introvert vs Extravert philosophies of socializing within a few days of one another.

The first event was the dinner party held at a club near the beach that I described in a previous post: a group of five individuals curated by a host based on the fact that each person Seemed Interesting. We had no other previous connections- we were essentially five strangers sitting together and talking for an evening over food and drinks. Let us call this The Salon.

The second event was an Alumni event held at a club near the beach in which a host of young alumni from different schools and classes and degree levels all gathered to talk for an evening over food and drinks. Anybody within the target age bracket was invited to buy a ticket. The ticket got you a in the door with a nametag and a free drink and everything after that was a free for all. Let’s call this one The Mixer.

I enjoyed The Salon so much I was sorry to have to leave. I went home feeling optimistic and energized: interested and invested in the people I’d just met and spent time with. I was still thinking it over days afterwards.

As much as I loved as enjoyed The Salon is exactly how much I hated The Mixer. I met the same number of people and had the same number of drinks, but I could not get out of there fast enough, failed to make any memorable connections with anybody except Jeff the Security Guy, who was a sweetheart and helped me track down the food, and left feeling completely drained, defeated and like I’d wasted my time. I came home and did a shot of whiskey and sat on the bedroom floor feeling sorry for myself for about twenty minutes before finally pulling myself together.

This was supposed to be fun? This was supposed to be productive? So far as I could tell it was neither: a hundred increasingly drunk people shouting at each other while their eyes roved and rambled around the rest of the crowd for someone better to talk to.

Real question: have you ever made a useful connection at a mixer? Ever? I haven’t. Why do I still go? Because the act of Networking is hammered into us so hard that we feel compelled to smash ourselves uselessly against glass walls because we think it’s the key to the wider world?

I don’t think I’m going to bother with The Mixer anymore. They really are a waste of my time. I think from now on I’d rather focus on Salon style networking- events where the emphasis is on depth instead of breadth, and where it’s possible to actually get to know a person a little bit instead of just shouting facts about yourself in their general direction.

A Mixer is a place you might meet a great contract, but a Salon is a place you might actually make a friend.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 7, 2018.

4 Responses to “Deep/Wide”

  1. How is it possible for you to meet the same number of people at both events? How sad was a “mixer” to only have 5 people from different classes and all of that?

    Oh, wait, I just had to check my long comment…

    You didn’t only MEET (as in share the space with) five people at the “mixer.” You only CONNECTED ON A SOCIAL LEVEL with five people; there were plenty more who you avoided and who hindered your enjoyment of the space and event; they were not-so-white noise to you, like trying to talk with a friend next to a busy street full of growling and honking cars.

    I wonder, how did the drinks help? Not enough, I guess. I wouldn’t drink, at all, most likely. So, how worse would I feel?

    Anyway, so what I am gathering–along with the mere mention of extrovert/introvert stuff–is that you, like me, prefer the company of a small group versus a big noisy crowd that divides your potential for social interaction too far. There are not enough mental fractions of you to comprehend all of those people, yet your being wants to do the math and crashes like a slowed computer. In the other case, in a space that is warmer, more casual and inviting with possibly fewer expectations or anxieties about sharing details, you were far more satisfied, like a full-body massage versus a quick back rub.

    Here’s what I also gather (possibly for the millionth time…unless I am just assuming with “outside eyes,” again); alcohol was provided and encouraged to loosen nerves, but all it did was loosen tongues and lead to more discomfort which, for many, will hopefully be forgotten (after another few drinks). [Even you went home and had some more alcohol?]

    SO, why do we continue to do this to ourselves? Why bother with the alcohol (throw in some weed and cigarettes while you’re at it, why not)? Why not just invite a counselor/therapist and have everyone take the couch? Or, attend an adult retreat?

    I think back–and I would not be surprised if I already shared this story with you–to a high school retreat I took. Actually, there were a few around the same time. And, like your experiences this past installment in the life of the tall red queen, I had differing feelings.

    My very first retreat, in 8th grade, was a delight, aside from some peer pressure/anxieties about puberty and such. I could have been far more social and interactive and am sorry I wasn’t. But, I still had fun and was a bit sad to go home when it was over.

    My next retreat, freshman year of high school, was a nightmare that ended the same way my first sleepover did. I felt–and still feel–like such a big baby who just wasn’t “hip” to what others already knew. I even had tips from my brother who went before me, knowing what to expect, and I couldn’t face it. I was just not comfortable with those classmates.

    Finally, there was my senior year retreat, and that one was like the first, at first. It started out uneasy and doubtful in my mind. I expected failure and to feel exposed in an unpleasant way. But, as we all sat in a circle and started divulging our depths of personal baggage, those “popular kids” in the group started looking and feeling more soft and human, and many began to feel more at ease with each other. I could suddenly talk with the “shallow bitch” or “class slut” as if she was someone I grew up with over many years. Alas, it all went south rather quickly when those who could not resolve the exposure of feelings and history they just made turned to violence and drug use which was not permitted, resulting in a retreat cut short and me flaring my temper at anyone who was responsible without knowing who did what. Still, I think back to how great it was to be in that circle and shed our “armor” to connect.

    Sometimes, it’s the setting, too. Actually, I’d say setting is a big factor. We each have places we find comforting, places we find boring/annoying and places that make us uneasy. I would never want to mingle with people in a hospital or one of those big convention halls/dining rooms hotels advertise for businesses. When I think of movies like Up in the Air and see Clooney “mixing it up” at that tech company convention, I get nauseous. I would be so annoyed and nervous in that setting. I would not be good company; I would not be very friendly unless someone really surprised me with their kindness. I would want to get out of there as soon as possible. But, have a meeting on a beach with seagulls, softly crashing waves and palm trees providing adequate shade…minimal humidity and bugs…and I’d likely open up like the happiest of flowers. But, I’d still need help coming out of my “introvert” shell. It’s much easier for me to mingle in an online chatroom than it is face-to-face. I have never felt comfortable engaging a group face-to-face. Yet, again, if given the chance to open up and share certain “intimate details” without consequence, that same group could surprise me/you and leave me/you with a happy memory.

    I give you credit for even attempting “networking.” I fall short on that, terribly. I cannot bang my head against the glass, as you say. Rather, I can, but I don’t find the nerve or tolerance/patience to do so. And, no amount of alcohol is going to help…it’s just going to give me another problem.

  2. I should also point out it sounds like you went to the mixer with an erroneous mindset. As you said yourself, you could find a “contract” at a mixer but not likely at a “salon” (which does not sound like the right word for that event, at all). So, when you attended the mixer, you were more interested in finding friendship, emotional support, than feeling gutsy to pursue a “contract.” If you were running at full steam and pursuing a “contract” like winning some representative over at a job fair, you would have, maybe, been more prepared and “professionally composed.” Instead, you went in half-cocked and slightly if not moderately uneasy, as I am sure anyone else who was not confidently (even if alcohol-assisted) “doing business,” was. I would like to think you were not the only uncomfortable attendee. But, like those horrible class reunions you hear about, it’s just as possible that everyone else came with a “portfolio” in hand while you just had a shoebox full of notes and/or receipts.

    In short, the next time you go to an event where you say scoring a “contract” is the “game,” come prepared to rumble, not make friends (other than “professional courtesy friends”).

    • Did I write ‘contract’? If so then it was a typo which should read ‘contact’ as in someone who I might get in contact with at a later date to get to know better. As it was, I didn’t go to the Mixer with an agenda: the goal was just to break out of my routine and to maybe get to know some new people- professions or otherwise.

      I mention the alcohol as an acknowledgment of it as a variable: I find it a useful tool to help me step back from my usual mindset which can be very focused and judgmental- not an appealing combination for social situations. Really, I mentioned it so that it was clear that I was experiencing both events with the same about of social lubrication and that my reactions to each was not likely to be the result of booze alone.

      It sounds like you would thrive in a Salon style setting for socializing where it is easier to get beneath the shell of the people that you meet. Introverts love social connection just as much as extravert- we just seek depth instead of variety. I can see from your writing that you have a wealth of insight that is difficult to share because many social environments don’t promote listening: the music is loud, the space is chaotic, the movement is constant… You know what I’m talking about.

      Anyway, thanks for reading 🙂

      • Maybe I misread. [I’m replying without looking back, at the moment.] But, either way, I would take “contact” as something other than a “friend” because you claimed to fail finding one and anticipating the other.

        I have tried so many unconventional–and a few conventional–ways of making contacts, and none have worked to my satisfaction. I know I don’t try nearly enough; obviously, because I am not yet adequately successful. Nor am I any better at securing friendships.

        Gosh, how nice would that be to attend some “mixer,” meet people and go home knowing you would not only speak with that person again but meet with them more than once. I feel so alienated.

        Well, if there was no agenda, then it was all setting and comfort zone.

        Even if your usual mindset is not the most social, at least, you’d have better control of your tongue. As you said yourself, people were shouting to be heard and drinking plenty of alcohol, yet you felt out of your element and annoyed. The alcohol did not help in that case. If it helped at the “salon,” then, at least, you had less to compete with yet you still have some serious “issue” with being a negative ninny, which is sad and a bit troubling. Unless you came off like a total bitch, wore an icy fake smile or freaked out from my presence/thoughts, I’d like to think we’d get along, okay. At the very least, I’d expect a connection like I’d have with a customer/client. Anything less, and I am just deceiving myself here. 🙂

        I know I am not the best of social party guests without certain circumstances or company in place. I am not going to immediately be friendly, generous or quick to spend money. I’m going to find the quietest corner and cheapest food and drink to keep me going until I find some source of comfort….or bail on the whole thing. If someone convinces me to have a drink to “loosen up,” well, I feel sorry for those who get in the way of my wild outlooks and blue streaks, because I will no longer be in full control of them. You don’t like me rambling on about astrology or how I think art schools are a bit of a joke? Don’t give me alcohol. You don’t want to hear my deepest thoughts or quickest judgements of today’s politics, of which I do not fully understand? Don’t loosen the valves on my brain.

        I see no benefit from drug use other than shaking nerves, but there are so many other “side effects” that can be just as tragic as nerves or a bitter, defensive aura caused by discomfort and social anxiety. To me, having a few drinks to mingle is like going to the grocery store to get one thing but tell yourself you have to fill a cart to look “normal.” Heaven forbid you only go for a box of tissues or “women’s hygiene products.” You come home feeling not entirely yourself, similar to sucking helium from a balloon and then shaking off the high voice. It’s like you were not entirely yourself, but now you have to be when you “come home.” And, what does that really say about the connections you hoped to make? Were you YOU or a deluded, masked you? And, can you expect to meet those “contacts” at the same masquerade every time?…always behind beer glasses?

        I would not say–even if I am an introvert (which I am not entirely sure and think I am a mix, depending upon circumstances)–I don’t like or even seek variety. I know I would not be quick to accept too wide a variety too soon. I don’t want a circus parade of freaks and oddities thrown at me in rapid succession. But, given a chance to explore the field at my own pace, it might not be so bad. As they say about everyone being alike, it would be just as unpleasant to attend an event where everyone is matched up by some list of components they exhibit, especially if you suddenly disliked yourself for being associated with “such people.” It’s sort of like being deemed a nerd or dweeb and thrown into some Star Trek convention full of zit-faced, drooling boy-men when the last thing you want to be is zit-faced, drooling or solely associated with Star Trek, just because you watch some now and then or fantasized about a certain actress. It’s part of the reason I am having such a hard time “mixing,” because just when I or others think they have me pegged for what group would appeal to me, I don’t feel like being part of that group…I’m something different…a variety of a person.

        Now that you bring up my writing, again, I’ve been meaning to get back to what you said, earlier, saying I was “prolific.” When I hear that word, I think of authors like Tom Clancy and Danielle Steele. I don’t even have one novel on the bookstore shelves, yet. I’m writing a series of books other authors have written at a pace of about 10 books or more in a year; they didn’t publish one book a year. I think I saw most of the series within a decade, and the series contained about 50 books. How does anyone put out that kind of verbiage? And, how do I, a guy accused of talking too much at the wrong times, not write/publish more? There is an element of “reserve” in me that really hinders production. And, if it is merely in pursuit or assurance of quality, fine. But, I sure hope my final result(s) are worth the time taken. But, prolific? I am not sure I fit that description…other than when I get to rambling. 😛

        I suppose, when I take a moment to think instead of jumping to conclusions, you’re onto something. 😛 Yea, there is no capacity for some emcee or host to promote that “group therapy” dynamic in most social and business settings. And, even if there was more of that, I suspect some would become apprehensive and want to withdraw when/if they felt inadequate. For example, even at my last retreat, though the sharing was great, I still felt inadequate when the guys were comparing foolish and drunken stories. I remember feeling such a fool talking about my G-rated experiences. No one even really responded. They just kind of smiled and nodded before going back to their stories. For the following few hours, if not the night, I wanted to hide in a hole and cry…and hope one of the nicer attendees came to lure me back to the light. But, that never happened.

        And, thank you for reading and responding.

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