What do PR Week’s Aarti Shah, Ogilvy’s Dushka Zapata and this blogger have in common? We’re all introverts making a go of it in professions dominated by extroverts.
Aarti outs her introverted self in a current editorial. Dushka did the same in a recent blog. Aarti congratulates Dushka for coming out of the closet by saying, ‘…several other PR pros have confided to her (Dushka) that they are also introverts, but that they don’t want to admit this publicly for fear of being misjudged.’ As a lifelong introvert, I find the comment amusing, if not alarming.
Being extroverted has never been a prerequisite to success in my business. I’m all about listening to the client, the reporter or the peer and then engaging in a mutually beneficial conversation. Extroverts can easily go over the line and become too aggressive, too obnoxious and, ultimately, fail. Introverts, as Aarti points, are naturally good listeners, a critical factor in traditional and digital communications.
Aarti is correct in saying too many graduating college student perceive PR to be a ‘people business.’ It is. But, then, what business isn’t? How could it be a business without people?
I’ve found ways to overcome my innate shyness by taking courses on improvisation and stand-up comedy. Both have made me much more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I also like to challenge myself physically with ice, rock and mountain climbing. That may sound like a solitary avocation, but one is thrown in with all sorts of strangers who share the same goal, whether it’s summiting Kilimanjaro or pulling oneself up a frozen waterfall in Rumney, N.H.
It’s not always fun being an introvert, but it provides tons of intangible benefits, especially to public relations professionals.
So, here’s a shoutout to Aarti and Dushka for owning up to being introverts. I’m with you, guys. In fact, I think we should take our mutual bond to the next level. Let’s quit our day jobs and start a new business that is of, by and for introverts. We’ll call it Introverts, Inc. And, we’ll only represent brands that are too shy to ballyhoo their latest, greatest product or service. I even have an idea who our anchor client should be: Northwestern Mutual: The Quiet Company. Talk about a marriage made in heaven.
Thanks Michael. I actually find myself completely agreeing with your POV (which is a first).
I went through very productive corporate training a few years ago at a cable channel where some felt only extroverts should be hired. The training buried that philosophy once and for all. Measuring (or deciding to hire) someone on whether they are an introvert or extrovert is absurd at least, prejudicial at worst. The key is – can the person effectively work with both introverts and extroverts, regardless of their own predisposition? Can one manage rapport based on the balance of personalities, and modify that with each new person, since some are introverts, some are extroverts, and some are in between, yet that is not an automatic conclusion about one’s value potential? That’s what good managers (and decent people) should focus on. Hopefully this and other industries will evolve long past the process of outing one’s introverted self and focus on the effective interaction tools that really matter.