Are you more comfortable in front of your computer than at lunch with your coworkers? When you present a new design to colleagues or clients, do you have trouble holding their attention because of your deliberate speaking style? If so, you might be suffering from the curse of the introvert.

In today's tough economy, it's no longer enough to be a genius. To get ahead, you must be able to communicate ideas effectively and use them to influence others. Unfortunately, the good ideas of introverts often go unheard because extroverts make their voices heard first. Some professions lend themselves to introverts, science and engineering included. Not to worry, says author Maribeth Kuzmeski. Here are some tips from Kuzmeski to help you forge a close network of colleagues and contacts:

Make the right connections — even if you're not a “people person.” Anyone can become an effective connector. Connecting is less about being gregarious and more about your awareness of the relationships you are forming. To maximize the value of your interactions, start by thinking about the coworkers, vendors, and industry leaders with whom it's important for you to become well acquainted. Then jot down some ideas for reaching out to each of these people.

Set yourself up for connecting success. While introverts don't share their every thought as many extroverts do, they can make connections that are just as strong. If you're an introvert, create situations in which it is easier for you to connect. Most introverts like to think before they speak and tend to engage well with people one-on-one. So the next time you want to build a relationship with a client or coworker, consider a lunch meeting at a quiet restaurant rather than in a big group. It's thought that introverts have fewer close relationships than extroverts, but deeper ones: In the right environment, you will be able to forge these deep relationships.

Improve your social IQ. No matter how much you know, there's always more to learn; that's just as true for social intelligence as it is for book smarts. Once you've determined where your connections need to be made, think about how you currently interact with these people. Do you take into account what others think? At the end of each day, review your interactions with staff and clients; rate your positive impact on others, and write down notable successes and failures.

Keep in mind that your words and actions have a powerful effect on others. Once you've pinpointed the areas in which you need to improve, rehearse mentally. Anticipate how people might react to what you say. Rehearse conversations in advance.

Don't just hear — listen. In today's hectic world, most people aren't willing to take the time to truly listen. Buck that trend: In addition to hearing what someone else has said, actively try to understand his or her words in your own way. Make sure the speaker has your full attention. Watch for nonverbal cues, stay focused, let your face display a range of emotions that reflect that you're paying attention, and acknowledge the speaker every so often with an “Uh-huh.”

Because so few people truly practice the art of listening, it's the most effective way to make lasting connections with others. Cultivating this skill will bring you satisfied customers, content colleagues, and trusting supervisors. Your relationships will also be more rewarding, and your career more successful.

The Connectors: How the World's Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life by Maribeth Kuzmeski is available at bookstores and online.