I started my career in 2003 as a newspaper journalist. It was a great choice for me as an introvert because I quickly found that I can interact with people with more ease than in daily normal life when I had a purpose or a reason to talk to them. I also found as I grew more comfortable with daily interviewing that my quiet personality was an unexpected asset because I’m a great listener. Because I really took the time to listen to my subjects, I got some really great stories, just by letting them lead the flow of our discussions, and asking the right questions at the right times.
I continued to use this skill as I transitioned into my second career—technical writing. Working with engineers, marketers, and usability specialists, I listened a lot, and let them lead, but asked a lot of questions, too.
When I began my work in User Experience, I was nervous that I’d need to be more outgoing and would have to work to change my personality to be more like the graphic designers and marketers that I worked with. I admired that effervescence that they brought to the workplace, but it’s exhausting for me to bring that level of energy to my interactions.
To my surprise, as I got more involved with my new coworkers on our projects, I realized that they appreciated the different perspective that I brought to their worlds, and we worked really well together. There was a balance developed that was really useful in our daily work, with my measured thoughtful approach and the graphic designers’ and marketers’ enthusiastic engaging approach.
While we worked through problem-solving and making difficult design decisions, my introverted personality allowed us to have someone who kind of quietly “steered the ship” and kept us focused on the assignment. The outgoing members of our team stretched my imagination and boundaries, so they were great assets, too!
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the fact that introverted people have long been overlooked, but that we bring valuable skills and perspective to the board room table:
“Extroverts are more likely to take a quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving, trading accuracy for speed, making increasing numbers of mistakes as they go, and abandoning ship altogether when the problem seems too difficult or frustrating.
Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately.
Introverts and extroverts also direct their attention differently: if you leave them to their own devices, the introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future. The extroverts are more likely to focus on what’s happening around them.
It’s as if extroverts are seeing “what is” while their introverted peers are asking “what if”.
Susan Cain, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”
This is really exciting to me! I’d love to hear from other introverts out there. How does your personality blend with the other members of your UX team? Do you struggle to be heard, or are you finding that your perspective is appreciated? Let me know!