I once had a boss in marketing who told me, “You know, I can always tell the writers in my group. Whenever I call them and leave a message, they respond back with an email.”
There’s truth in the words he spoke. We write for a lot of reasons—one of them being it gets us out of having to talk to people.
I’ve heard this observation multiple times since then, stated in a variety of ways. For the most part, however, the gist is always something about the preferred method of communication for writers being…well…writing. Go figure.
This isn’t an issue when working with other creative sorts. They just “get” it. Problems occasionally arise when trying to explain this particular phenomenon to more unilaterally-focused, one-way-to-do-things individuals.
Whether it’s a memo, a daily interaction, or a passing thought, I always gravitate toward the written word, and there are several reasons for that:
- Peopleing is hard. I’m an introvert who has learned how to function in polite society where adults must occasionally speak to each other. But deep down, I’m more comfortable with a book (or a pen and paper).
- Memory is tricky. Email is a nice way to CYA—and it’s also a great way to ensure that you’ve followed through on tasks. It can keep you out of a lot of potential pickles that can crop up if you forget to do things. You can easily look up past messages to ensure tasks are on track and everyone’s taking care of the things they committed to.
- Email has an end point. If you don’t exactly gravitate toward extended conversation, email is a great way to gracefully dip your toe in, say what needs to be said, and then get the heck out. Say it and retreat: it’s that easy. For introverts, there’s EVERYTHING to love about that.
- Talking is a workout. You know how you feel after a really intense workout? Energy zapped and muscles turned to jelly? That’s how introverts feel after talking and interacting for a long time. Afterward, they need to recover from their ordeal by hiding in a closet with a book and a blankie for the weekend. It’s so much better to just avoid all that and send an email.
Don’t get me wrong. Talkers are lovely. I have many of them in my family. Extroverts are wonderful, vivacious people with access to seemingly endless energy that’s constantly replenished with fairy dust and unicorn magic, and they spread that energy far and wide across the land in the hope of converting every quilt-covered bridge troll into a brilliant conversationalist. Their liveliness and positive attitudes are admirable; enviable even.
But it comes down to this. Introverts gonna introvert. And extroverts gonna extrovert.
We’ve heard for a whole long time that we need to embrace different work styles and personalities. Usually that is code for, “Hey, all you quiet people, it’s time to adapt and learn to do team projects with the rest of us while we trade stories about traffic jams and new coffee flavors.”
But maybe, just maybe, there’s another approach. Maybe there’s a way to combine the BEST of the INTROs with the BEST of the EXTROs. (Brilliant, right? Corporate America should have totally thought of this!) And if we did that, we’d end up with an alliance as powerful as that of Captain America and Iron Man. Can you even imagine?
C’mon, SpaceX is planning human spaceflight, yet we haven’t figured out how to combine the super powers of introverts and extroverts and use them for the good of all mankind? I feel like we’re missing out here.
Corporate America, you can do this. We’re counting on you. Do something more than trust falls and obstacle courses; you’re better than that. Think about your workforce as a whole and think about the talent that’s driving you. There’s a way to be inclusive of every work style…but we’re just not there yet.