Why introverts make the best moderators


If you were to ask me to name my favorite thing about market research, I’d would probably have to think about it for a moment, but most likely I’d say that focus group and interview moderating is the most stimulating part of the job. Sure, playing a part in the marketing analysis is fun, and I’m even strange enough to actually enjoy PowerPoint, but there really is nothing quite like moderating a really insightful interview. I love the feeling of having to think on your feet, getting at the subtleties of body language and unconscious communication, and then finally getting at that golden nugget of insight that makes me immediately think to myself, “Yeah, that’s going in the report.” And yet, by all accounts, scientific and anecdotal, I am an introvert. I picked daisies and sang Disney songs in the outfield on my 5-year-old t-ball team. On the Meyers-Briggs test, I always get an ‘I’. I can relate to this article perfectly. I could go on, but you get the idea. I was considering this after the last round of interviews last week. Why is it that if I’m such an introvert, the human interaction in the interview room is so stimulating? Why do I get more energized after each successive interview rather than getting burned out? Was I wrong about my personality this whole time? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that introverts may in some cases be better adept at this part of the job than extroverts. Not to toot my own horn, but since everyone on the internet lately seems to be glorifying the quieter 16-50% of the population, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and lend my two cents: [DISCLAIMER: I am with all certainty not a psychologist and probably not qualified to draw these extremely general conclusions. Please interpret this as one person’s opinion. And extroverts, you guys are great too.]

Introverts are good listeners. It’s sometimes tempting in the interview room to think you’re the star of the show. You’re the one who has to remember the discussion guide, write the flipchart notes, keep time, think about strategic objectives, and anticipate what the clients might want to know in the backroom. It’s a lot of pressure, but ultimately it’s not about you. It’s about whomever you’re talking to. Their input and quotes are what feed your results. Realizing this probably comes a little bit easier to introverts. First and foremost, we’re observers, and while we can participate, what we’re really interested in when interacting with someone else is learning about that person.

Introverts internalize and absorb. Somewhat related to my last point, a key ability that introverts have is to take in information and integrate it with what we’ve heard before. We’re essentially sponges for observation. This means that we’re not only good listeners, but we’re also good analyzers. Rather than resorting to kneejerk reactions and following the interviewee down the rabbit hole, we can process information, choose the relevant or interesting items, and explore those further.

Introverts do well with structure. Maybe this is just a personal quirk and doesn’t apply to other introverts, but I’ve found that while free-form social interaction (like a large party) is tedious and exhausting, when some structure is built around that interaction (like a game, or of course, an interview), it suddenly becomes exhilarating. It may be because with all of our need to constantly analyze and internalize everything around us, when the entire reason for talking with someone is to analyze and internalize, it fills us with purpose and becomes a thrilling experience. An interview is an environment where we can showcase and utilize our strengths, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that that is always fulfilling. One thing I always like to say about introverts is that we really do love people. We love interacting with friends and meeting new and interesting personalities. It’s not socializing necessarily that is exhausting to us. Rather, it’s our constant need to absorb everything and weave it into our worldview on the spot. So give an introvert a chance, fellow market researchers! I think you’ll be pleased with what you see.

Ellen Hart is a Director at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields. Email Ellen at ellen.hart@vivisumpartners.com