Lately I’ve been receiving voice-mails from one of my clients asking me to call him back to answer his questions. Not to ignore him, I have primarily responded to his calls with e-mails. This is preferable to getting caught in lengthy phone conversations during a busy time of the day.
Trying to make the best use of my time at work makes me think of six reasons why introverts—I’m included among them, in case you’re wondering—sometimes prefer to write rather than converse over the phone or in person.
Conversations can have no limit. Have you been involved in one-sided conversations, where you’re the one doing most of the listening? Although introverts are said to be good listeners, being treated as a sounding board is not their idea of fun.
When communication is conducted with the buffer of e-mail, it is two-way and the introvert feels engaged in the conversation.
Self-promotion is easier in writing. Some people call self-promotion bragging because it means speaking highly of themselves, but I tell them it’s not bragging if 1) it’s true and 2) you’re asked about your accomplishments.
Nonetheless, self-promotion can be uncomfortable for introverts, particularly if they have to deliver it verbally. When I want to make my manager aware of an accomplishment, I shoot her an e-mail.
Writing is less exhausting. An introvert feels like he’s on stage when he has to talk at extended lengths of time. An extravert doesn’t want to leave the stage.
The act of speaking is not problematic for the introvert, it’s sustaining the conversations over a long period of time that drains their batteries. Writing gives introverts a welcome break from hours of speaking.
Writing gives introverts time to think. Introverts prefer to think before speaking, while extraverts sometimes speak before thinking. We tolerate the chatty extraverts—it’s their nature. But an introvert doesn’t want to be misunderstood and writing prevents this.
One strength I admire about the extravert is her propensity for small talk, because I struggle with it. But when it comes to writing, I can write my thoughts in my own sweet time.
Writing is required to conduct a successful job search and succeed in business. That’s only part of it, though. Great verbal communication skills are necessary in networking, telephone communications, and of course the interview.
But when it comes to writing a résumé , cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other correspondences, an introvert is at his best. At work the introvert feels most creative when he writes. He’d rather have time to reflect; leave the brainstorming to the extravert.
Writing is fun. I know I don’t speak for all introverts, but some consider writing as a release of creativity and a way to express their thoughts to a larger audience.
Because you blog, write novels or poems, or simply keep a diary; does that mean you’re an introvert? Of course not. There are plenty of extraverts who love to write. I just happen to be one who enjoys writing every day. Call me nuts.
I remember a time in college when a schoolmate asked me what I thought was more important, verbal or written communications. I immediately said “written communications,” and he argued for verbal communications.
His argument was sound and he spoke compassionately about being able to address audiences real-time. I was taken off-guard and was unprepared to make my remarks. As I was leaving the room, he seemed to be talking unaware of my absence.
- 3 ways for introverts to get away and recharge their batteries (thingscareerrelated.com)
Thanks for a great piece that highlights some important reasons why introverts write. The ones that I see (and experience) most often are that it’s less exhausting and it offers time to think. It also provides the ability to go back and revise after a bit of reflection, something that anyone – introvert or extrovert – can benefit by. Writing also helps to clarify our thinking so we can tighten up both the logic and the way it’s expressed. This is something that I think introverts learn intuitively.
Joyce Shelleman, Ph.D.
Author, The Introvert’s Guide to Professional Success: How to Let Your Quiet Competence Be Your Career Advantage
Thanks, Joyce. I too enjoy the chance to collect my thoughts and present them in a more intelligent manner. As for being talked at, sometimes it’s easier to take it online so both sides can be heard. It’s a great way to argue, by the way.
My preference for writing revolves around the accolades and feedback I get from colleagues at work. Normally I tend to withdraw and just be a fixture at group meetings. I’m not approached by anyone because they know I prefer to be quiet and just observe. However, when I turn out a masterful presentation or turn in a superior report I am accosted by those same people handing out plaudits and accolades all around. I bask in this for a day or two but always find a way to ultimately deflect the attention. I guess I enjoy the feedback from writing without having to speak.
Great article, and I enjoyed it. I teach healthy assertiveness and self-expression to introverted women, and writing is one of several forms of expression we discuss. Many introverts do love writing because they feel they communicate better on paper. I know I do.
I find with a dominant writing expressive, words come easier. She loves words, wordsmithing, and brainy vocabulary. I love that Ben Franklin quote that says “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Someone with a high writing value would love that quote.
A common struggle I see with writing as a dominant expression though, is a desire to replace needed verbal conversations with the written word (i.e. email and the like). While it’s easier, it’s not always the best way to approach various scenarios.
In addition, a caution point is always ensuring you’re being authentic in your writing – in the hyper-connectivity of the internet, it’s much easier to say things in writing we would never say in person. I always caution women of this who have writing as an important expression. People can feel tone.
Thanks Tamisha. I agree with your point about people who replace verbal communications with writing. In some cases, one must communicate verbally in business and personal situations. It’s not plausible to put all your ideas at work in writing, nor is it appropriate to go to a social event and avoid discussions. Introverts are fully capable of speaking–I speak for a living–they just prefer to write in certain situations. One example I give is submitting an accomplishment via e-mail rather than in person.
Love this post Bob. As always spot on. In particular the operative word for me, as you introduced these key points is … sometimes. Then I saw a pattern of some other s words in some of your points – sounding board, self-promotion, sustaining conversations (ok it it two words). Super ideas – thanks.
Author of upcoming book: Communication Toolkit for Introverts
Thanks, Pat. I appreciate you scooping it on it.paper. I thought about how we talk about introverts’ preference for writing over talking and how I often feel that way, and then I thought of some examples of when. I feel my energy draining when I’m at a social event, but “sometimes” is a keyword. Also when I want my manager to know what I’ve accomplished, I have no problem explaining it in writing. Unfortunately writing isn’t as immediate, except when you’re talking with people who love a talking war…are they extraverts?
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You are right on target in all six of your points. I prefer to write our customers an e-mail more than I would a phone call. Most of the times I follow up a phone call with an e-mail so they can have the requested information in writing. And it also gives me time to think about what I need to write and do the research. Especially if it’s an inquiry that I have never been asked before. Thank you.
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Thanks for your comment, Adrian. I was thinking that introverts prefer to talk on the phone on their terms. For example, when I have a question or want to just talk with someone, that’s when I pick up the phone. Otherwise I let it go to voicemail and reply when I feel the urge. Selfish?
Hello Bob. No I don’t think it’s selfish at all to let a call go to voicemail. The caller is more apt to leave a brief message than a length conversation. Especially if they are frustrated. And when I return I call, it’s after I have had time to look up the policy on what they are asking about. And this is more in my terms.
Hi Bob, I think you have to determine the best way to communicate with each person you are dealing with. I for one am not a great writer so I would prefer to speak by phone with potential clients. I respect what you are saying about the calls and meetings getting dragged out but I have had many email conversations do the same. Also from time to time I have misread the meaning of emails. I understand that writing is your best method of communicating but it may be costing you clients who feel they are not important enough for you to return their call. Just something to think about
Your point is well taken in terms of emails lacking the proper tone or being misunderstood. That is a common complaint, and that’s why people have used LOL (which I hate) or “said with enthusiasm.” But nothing can be better understood than verbal communications. On the other hand, there can be very little done with someone who does what I call abusing the verbal boundaries. That’s why I wrote this post. I would get caught talking on the phone with many people who had no regard for my time. Kevin, when we talk on the phone, each of us has the right to say, “Gotta go.” That’s understood. However some people just don’t get it. Five minutes until I have to do a workshop and a caller won’t let up. This also applies to face-to-face conversations, and even when you are giving the person the message that you have to go by backing away, they seem to chase after you.
In terms of clients, I am sure to be prepared for a phone call. Tonight I talked with a woman for an hour and was paid for that hour; however, I went over her profile for half an hour before our conversation. I did this so that our time would not be wasted with idle chatter. Most introverts will tell you that the phone is not their best friend…the keyboard is. Thanks for your honest and respectful comment.
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