The key idea here is that:
For introverts, to be alone is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.
—Jonathan Rauch, Caring for Your Introvert
We as a society need to eradicate the idea that being an introvert means you don’t have social skills (or research or design skills). It just means that introverts have to approach design differently, and allow ourselves to recharge.
It means we love quiet conversations about feelings or ideas.
It means we’re very passionate.
It means we prefer individual or small group conversations.
It means we are deep thinkers.
It means we are good listeners.
It means we’re very self-aware.
It means we prefer observation.
It means we prefer exploring multiple ideas alone before syncing back with the team.
It means we are less likely to fall into “design by committee”.
It means we are often very detail oriented.
It means we form deep relationships (quality) rather than quantity.
In fact, if you think about it, these are all characteristics of great UX Designers.
Here are just some of the ways these introverted characteristics can actually be an advantage in UX Design rather than a disadvantage.
1. UX often happens in small groups.
The good news is that most of the UX process happens in small groups (teams) of people that frequently see each other and work together. The most effective research is conducted individually. All of this works to an introvert’s advantage because of their tendency to invest deeply in relationships and the fact that they gain energy from interacting in small groups.
2. Introverts are excellent user researchers.
Because introverts are naturally good listeners and excel at observation, they often make great user researchers. They enjoy silence and are less prone to “lead the witness” during a research session. They can let pauses drag on, which often prompts extroverted research participants to provide more detail. Since they don’t like the spotlight, they are always looking to put the user in the spotlight. This leads to fantastic research findings.
3. Introverts often form deep relationships which make them excellent at working with stakeholders
Since introverts gain energy from 1 on 1 or small group interactions, they usually develop deep relationships with those they interact with regularly. 1 on 1 conversations feel energizing so they tend to seek them out more. I’ve observed that since introverts tend to spend more time “recharging” in their own thoughts, self-awareness tends to be one of their strengths. This leads to a genuine appreciation of others and vast desire for & concern with people. This often results in genuine, deep relationships.
This skill translates extremely well in design when it comes to building relationships with team members and stakeholders. In the words of Carl W. Buehner:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Carl W. Buehner (1971)
People that make others feel important, valued, or respected tend to accomplish more impressive results. Why? Because they end up inspiring them. Author, speaker, and optimist Simon Sinek has said:
There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or inspire it.
All of us—I’m certain—have experience those who attempt to influence human behavior through manipulation. Those around them usually resent them and unless under their direct authority, usually push back on them.
Inspiration on the other hand often results from feeling great around others. We want to follow them or help them out because of the way we feel when we interact with them. It is by far the more effective way of influencing others—and introverts excel at it. It is by far the biggest reason so many effective leaders (and designers) self-identify as introverts.
Don’t believe me? Here are just some of the world’s most successful leaders who self-identify as introverts:
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple’
- Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft
- Jeff Bezos, Co-founder of Amazon
- Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla & Space-X
- Sergey Brin, Co-founder of Google
- Marissa Mayer, Former CEO of Yahoo!
- Warren Buffet, CEO Berkshire Hathaway
- Peter Thiel, Co-founder PayPal
- Steve Wozniak, Co-founder Apple
- Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO Facebook
4. An introvert’s need for processing feedback alone is a strength when receiving feature requests & make them less likely to fall into “design by committee”.
One characteristic of introverts is their need for processing feedback on their own. This can actually be a strength, though, when receiving feature requests from users, stakeholders, or management. It can help them understand the issue better, and place the request in context of the greater problem space & user outcome the team is going for.
Introverts are often less prone to immediately implementing something just because someone surfaced an idea. Or if they do, they do so intentionally after thoughtful review. Processing feedback alone, also helps introverts make connections that would never have come to light without their thoughtful consideration.
Maybe most importantly, introverts are far less likely to fall into “design by committee”. They thoughtfully consider multiple angles and due to their need to process alone, usually give in less to peer pressure of trying to satisfy everyone. They consider everyone’s point of view, and then return with their reasons for the direction they’re proposing.
5. Their tendency to think things through before they speak make them great at working with engineers.
Because many engineers are often also introverted, introverted designers are often excellent at working with engineers. They think before they speak which can result in much more thorough thinking around edge cases and how the UI should react in situations that vary from the ‘happy path’. Engineers greatly appreciate this thinking. This type of edge case anticipation often increases speed, trust, and quality of the final outcome delivery.