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Understanding those around us in networking – the power of personality

NetworkIn Graphic September 2018

In a recent casual conversation about how to create a productive and encouraging environment at work when working as part of a team, the topic of personalities came to light. Upon reflection, this topic may not only be important to a work place environment, but also in the face of networking, career paths, and building collaborative teams.

Often it is highlighted that to be a successful networker we must attempt to focus on how to help others rather than focusing on personal advancement. Amid aiming to resolve the self-centred approach to networking, the idea of understanding yourself and others may unleash an entire window of opportunity of how to conduct meaningful communication with all. Having an improved knowledge of your own communication and interaction preferences, as well as identifying other individuals’ preferences, gives us the possibility of having enriched interactions.

One must recognize that no test is perfect so there are some limitations to psychological preference testing. The most commonly used indicator is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The Myers-Briggs test categorizes16 personality types with 4 main functional dichotomies of preferences:

  1. General attitude      Extroverted vs. Introverted
  2. Perception Sensing vs. Intuition
  3. Judging Thinking vs. Feeling
  4. Applied function of No. 3 Judging vs. Perceiving

After completing the survey everyone will be given a 4-letter combination of one of each the 4 dichotomies terms, for example: ISFJ. This code will provide you with an indication of your personal preferences about how you make decisions and perceive the world. In the context of networking, introverts may be most likely found skirting the edge of a room while an extrovert may lead conversation in the rooms centre. Many people appreciate that networking comes easier to some folks, so understanding your strengths and weaknesses can be beneficial.

You may be asking, if I know my personality type, how can I possibly improve on my networking approach? Gauging other people’s preferences will help engage conversion by asking questions that make them feel: 1) comfortable and 2) phrase questions to demonstrate their strengths. As no expert in these matters, I will try and give some ideas and recommendations, however, there are many resources which you could reach out to as well.

Introverts: finding a buddy who you can tag along with can help with first introductions and improve comfortability with engaging in conversation. It can help reduce the daunting factor. Come prepared with some questions that you could ask, you can then be the active listener instead of leading conversation. Once you establish a connection which you would like to maintain, reach out to organize one-on-one sessions over coffee which will provide more of a laidback, calmer environment.

Extroverts: It may be a breeze for you to strike up conversation, but are you dominating the conversation? Are you talking at people or with them? As an extrovert, you have the prime opportunity to help draw other people into the conversation which can help show the power of your communication and team working skills. Perhaps small talk comes naturally to this category of individuals but make sure you do a little homework beforehand, so you do not come across unprepared. Finally, don’t overlook the power of meaningful relationships, so take some time to enhance personal connections. Rotating through the entire room may not always be the most beneficial. Sometimes, fewer and more personal relations can be more valuable.

Rounding out this conversation, if you think about personality types, many of them orientate to similar professions. So, it is important to realize that we are all in this together and maybe it’s not anyone’s favourite event. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is a skill and being in places that make you feel on edge are great places where you can discover a little bit more about yourself and have an opportunity to grow.

One last point, enjoy and good luck!

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Elizabeth Swallow

Graduate Student

I am a graduate student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology focusing my research on bone and chronic kidney disease.