Image credit: Manfred Steger
Despite what society seems to expect of me, I don’t really want to talk to anyone. I am an introvert. However, I found a career where I can make “conversation” and I absolutely love it. I am a UX Researcher.
I would mostly describe myself as an introvert. I’m not overtly friendly with people I don’t know well. I’m not one of those people that say “Hi” to strangers, nor do I strike up conversations with others at say my daughter’s playground or the airport. In fact, I fear the person on an airplane that really wants to talk during the flight… excuse me while I put my headphones on and get some work done. Frankly, I’m just not good at conversation with strangers. I find it really difficult to think up good questions to ask, or how to respond politely, or try to stay engaged. This used to make me uncomfortable and I would avoid parties, especially ones where I don’t know many people. It certainly made networking a chore.
I’m better when I am speaking with friends and family (fortunately). I actually can carry on a conversation. Probably because I have a frame of reference, and context for things that are and aren’t appropriate to ask. And I care about them, so I want to learn more. But even then, sometimes I reflect on my conversations and wish I dug deeper or wished I had asked more questions and maybe not just talked about myself. And some days I just feel so “in my head”, I feel like all I’m communicating to my partner is surface level stuff - I did this, met with this person, took out the trash… how was your day? I am admittedly not so good at telling stories (something I am actively trying to get better at… hence the blog post).
So the question I have found myself asking… myself: Why do I love UX research so much when so much of my job is talking to people, coming up with questions, and having conversations?! On reflection, it’s clear, I actually DO like talking to people when I have a good reason: a responsibility to learn about the user’s story and uncover how to solve their problems. And in fact, I love it. I absolutely love talking to participants and understanding more about their jobs, lives, the tools they use, and what they think about a user interface. I love uncovering information that will become pieces of a solution. It is really so much fun. I find joy and gain energy from having those conversations. It is why I fell in love with user research and why I have and will continue to pursue it as a career.
Sometimes, especially after a great research study, I secretly think: “maybe I actually am an extrovert!” I feel energized and as though I could be that person at a party who is an amazing conversationalist and surrounded by people. (Insert raised eyebrow smiley face here). But then I wind up in an awkward conversation with a parent at the playground, and realize, nope, not really. And I have come to terms with the fact that it’s okay. Being an introvert is part of who I am. There are certain things that will bring me joy, and other things that will feel uncomfortable, and that is normal.
What I have found really works for me about user research are the structure and the preparedness. I know my goals, and I have detailed questions. I have time to ponder follow-up questions to further probe into responses and continue the conversation. I can create a framework within which to guide the interaction with the participant. Also, as typical for an introvert, I am a good listener and love to give other people the space to talk. Finally, after the sessions are done, I get to use my analytical skills to sit with the data and uncover insights.
If you fancy yourself an introvert and are questioning whether UX or user research is right for you, take it from this introvert: it can totally work, and you might actually find joy in it!
Published on April 13, 2022