Though you wouldn’t know it by the cacophony of sounds in the average audition waiting room or chattering theater lobby, there are many actors who are introverts in the world. I know because I’m one of them. A true introvert, I need alone time to recharge and get my bearings, and I far prefer genuine, meaningful connection with a few rather than getting to know a little about a lot of people.
In a business where networking matters, being introverted can sometimes feel like a burden. I’ve often felt jealous of the way my extroverted colleagues can open doors for themselves with their ability to effortlessly socialize.
But being an introvert doesn’t have to get in the way of your acting. Here are a few networking tips on for actors who are introverts:
- Get good at asking questions
After a particularly brutal night of feeling awkward at a theater event, a friend of mine with is an expert networker gave me this solid piece of advice: Conversations are two-way streets, even though my introversion-turned-social-anxiety can make me feel as if I’m the one responsible for keeping things rolling by doling out information about myself, my work etc. To me, that feels exhausting and awkward as hell. So, I’ve learned to prepare a few solid questions and be curious enough to keep people talking about themselves. And when someone asks you a question, give them an answer but then reciprocate by asking that same question back to them. “I’m from ________, how about you?” I am genuinely curious about human beings, so gaining the courage to ask people follow-up questions and try to learn about what makes a person tick hasn’t been that hard and has gone a long way to set me at ease in social situations.
- Prepare some answers
I’m not saying you should prepare a bit or rehearse what you will say in social situations, but you can make your introverted life easier by articulating to yourself some answers to questions you know might be a topic of a conversation. If you’re going to an opening night gala, be ready to talk about the play, the writer, your friends who worked on it, etc. And of course, there are questions that often come up in any first conversation between people. If someone asks, “Where are you from?,” it’s good to know you have more than a one word answer.
- Bring a friend
This is simple and probably obvious. But going places with a friend, someone with whom you share a connection and feel at ease with, can really make things easier. If you can get audition slots next to each other, great. If you can both go to that party, wonderful. You’ll have someone around whom you enjoy and who can open up doors to other meaningful connections.
- Be aware of the vibe you’re giving off
I’m super good at shutting down even the possibility of conversation with my body language and expression. I am so good at it, that I’m often not even aware of the fact that I’m scowling or looking morose in the corner. I’m also great at getting into a shame spiral where I wonder why no one is talking to me, which makes me look even meaner. I swear, sometimes I don’t know the vibe I’m giving off, but I’ve learned over time to check in and try to open up physically so as to not keep people at a distance. People don’t want to approach the miserable person. So, even if you’re internally feeling awkward or anxious, try to physically express a pleasant vibe, even if that means faking it until you make it.
- Know when to keep it simple and light
This is a big one for me. I’ve learned that, as an introvert, I am prone to rushing to deeper connections than people are interested in. Surface-level conversations feel taxing to me, so I sometimes unconsciously steer things toward places that some people find too intense and alienating. Not everyone wants to know the whole truth about your feelings on politics, your family’s particular brand of dysfunction or that sad thing that just happened to you. As much as I am not constitutionally inclined to talk about the metaphorical weather, sometimes that is what’s called for.
- Be open to meaning
Surprise! There are other actors who are introverts in the room. It’s not just you. And there are other people wherever you are, introverted or not, who are willing to connect in a way that feels genuine and not exhausting. If you stay open and ask questions, you’ll find them. Remember that while networking can feel like a business requirement, networking is really just about human beings connecting with one another. Acting is a human business, too.
Interested in learning more about how to make it as an actor? Sign up for The Business of Acting in Chicago, starting July 22!