I recently read an article written by an Introvert (another person inspired by Susan Cain’s Quiet), that suggests that more marketers of the future will likely be (or should be) Introverts because effective marketing requires good and active listening. While I entirely agree with the thought that effective marketing (and almost everything else) is enhanced with active listening, as a Type-rooted coach and trainer of more than twenty years now, there are a few distressing thoughts in this essay that I feel compelled to call out as hopeful food for thought.
While it is not my intent, Introverts will likely feel under siege by some of my ideas. My hope is that any Introvert so torqued will reflect on what I’m saying and consider re-reading before committing to being offended (what I’m saying is actually empowering, not diminishing), and also keep in mind that I am an Introvert myself (INFP), so I’m saying this about introversion to Introverts as an Introvert myself.
My three points are these:
- Introverts are not necessarily good listeners–
— just like Extraverts are not necessarily good speakers. Introverts are frequently given props for listening prowess, and while many I’s may be great listeners, it is not the preference that makes this so. Just because I am not talking, don’t think I’m actually listening. Active listening requires engagement in the flow of the conversation and, at least in part, an external focus. It is hard work to actively listen—as hard for Introverts as their extraverted counterparts, so I whole-heartedly believe that the more marketers (or almost any profession) actively listen, the better and more effective they will be, but a preference for Introversion will not assure this.
- Type does not equal behavior or skill
Introverts can be compelling performers while Extraverts can be wonderful authors, yet both of these seem like unlikely career paths for the preference at hand. The truth is that Type tells us cognitive preferences, but life requires that we use (with some competence and skill) even those things we don’t prefer. I’m on the hook for all of it—each of us is. The fact is that Marketers need to be quiet and reflective, AND they also need to talk and to participate in the world around them. marketers do not need to be Introverts (or Extraverts). Rather, they need to develop their Type so that they can flex outside of their preference (whatever that is) when appropriate.
- Introverts need to plug in and engage the outer world
While buried in point #2, this bears repeating. Too many Introverts, in my view, cling to the idea that a preference for Introversion is an excuse for not engaging, not plugging in, not talking, not joining. Balance—a core developmental goal–is only achieved when we each spend an adequate (which does not mean equal) amount of time in both the extraverted and introverted worlds. In the end, Introverts need to engage just as Extraverts need to be quiet and reflect.
The end goal is not matching Type to careers, but to be happy and fulfilled in our relationships, roles and lives—to develop our Types so that we inhabit our preferences fully but also flex beyond these when necessary.