Introverts vs. Extroverts

By Kelly Nercess

Where do your social preferences lie when you think of a typical Friday night? Do you envision dancing the night away with a group of friends at the hottest nightclub? Or opt for a more laid-back evening with the latest Stephen King novel and a glass of wine in front of the fire? By choosing a preference, you are also declaring the trait of an introvert or an extrovert. Mike Townson shared his insights to the topic of introverts and extroverts at the Big Design conference in Dallas last month. How does this concept impact your ability to screen the right participants for your study goals?
On the scale of introverts and extroverts, sometimes there is no clear direction. You might feel drawn towards one side of the spectrum or you may find yourself smack dab in the middle. I, for one, can totally relate to this idea. I learned there is a word for that, we're called Ambiverts by Townson. We “can be considered moderately comfortable with groups and social interaction, but also relishing time alone, away from a crowd.” They are an intermediate between an introvert and an extrovert and share the same qualities that are possessed by both personalities. As an Ambivert, I can prefer quiet nights alone re-energizing my mind by simply keeping my thoughts to myself. Activities might include getting lost in a new book or reorganizing my kitchen. I get easily exhausted when I am constantly surrounded by people or feel the need to entertain others. On the other end, I do frequently enjoy social outings and I like to engage and interact with other people that are similar to me. I find comfort in a Friday night out with friends sharing our weekly stories over a beer.
 
Aside from my personal take on the topic, what does this mean for the UX industry? How do personality traits of an introvert and an extrovert really affect the moderator that is conducting an in-lab Qualitative study with a one-on-one interview, or a focus group? The loudest person in the room and the most outgoing is the right one in a focus group. That is absolutely not true. User Experience focuses on introverts and getting in to their minds and what they think and pulling out their thoughts and making them feel comfortable to share their opinions. When you are in the interview process to gain participants, it shouldn’t be about having the outgoing extrovert personality. It doesn’t mean that they are always the best candidate for the study and can get the most valuable information because they are the loudest.
 
Even being classified as an introvert or extrovert can play a considerable role in an office environment. It can determine whether a person is better suited in a cubicle setting with frequent loud conversations happening around them, or a more excluded setting that includes a private office and fewer distractions. So Townson poses the question, “How can we have a more friendly work environment for all personality types?” Well, the answer may be simple by using these tactics:

  • Quiet time blocks
  • Check with someone over IM/email before coming over to talk with them
  • Huddle rooms for quick conversations
  • Phone “booths” for conference calls

 
Management styles should adapt when considering introverts and extroverts. Ideally a mixed management style that caters to both personalities. Take advice from all angles and don’t exclude particular insights because it may come from someone else with a different personality. The allure of living in a society that can be considered a melting pot allows us to gain different points of views - leverage that!
 
Overall, I was able to learn a great deal from Mike Townson about the psychology behind introverts and extroverts and how we can incorporate these personalities in to not only the UX world, but also our daily lives. So now I pose the question, where do you think you fall on the spectrum?
 

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