Quiet Book Club at Muck Rack

We recently heard that Muck Rack, a software company for journalists and PR specialists, selected Quiet as their in-house book-club read! So we thought we’d check in with them to see how it went – and how it changed life for introverts and extroverts within the company. Here’s our interview with Vanessa Hannay, Senior Customer Success Strategist. Thank you, Muck Rack!

Q: What was your perception of introversion and extroversion before you read Quiet? Did Quiet change how you think about introverts and extroverts?

A: Before reading Quiet, I imagined a cleaner divide between introverts and extroverts. Quiet revealed how blurred the lines are. As an introvert myself, I resonated with many of the chapters in the book. The Extrovert Ideal cements that the path to becoming more successful and a better person is achieved through becoming more extroverted. In a client-facing role, I find the opposite to be true. My deep-rooted introversion enables me to listen more and focus on the goals of our customers.

Q: Which chapter or section do you feel best applies to your company?

A: I think that Chapter 3, “When Collaboration Kills Creativity”, best applies to Muck Rack. As Susan wrote in the book, “Over 70 percent of today’s employees work in an open plan. The amount of space per employee shrank from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.” We operate in an open office plan in our New York office, but we also have an incredible remote work policy. If a meeting is happening internally, I don’t feel obligated to join in-person.

We use video conferencing software such as Google Hangouts and Zoom so that each colleague has the opportunity to contribute equally regardless of physical location. It’s important for everyone who joins meetings virtually to enable their cameras so that we recognize facial expressions as opposed to interpreting tone of voice solely.

Leadership at our company does a great job of granting employees autonomy. With that said, we do set objectives and key results at the company and departmental levels to ensure each individual is working towards a shared goal. I do think that groups are important for catalysts of inspiration; however, the real work happens in solitude. I truly enjoy brainstorming with my colleagues and sharing ideas with one another, but I always work best independently in my own headspace. With any team, transparency is key. I feel empowered to work in the environment that’ll lead to the highest rate of productivity.

Q: Did any studies or facts surprise you? Not surprise you?

A: I was not surprised to learn that the number of Americans who considered themselves shy increased from 40 percent in the 1970s to 50 percent in the 1990s. I’m sure the percentage has continued to increase. Especially with the rise of social media, we’re measuring ourselves against such high standards and often against people we’ve never met. I think working in an open office creates a heightened sense of self-awareness. With that self-awareness comes harsher criticism of oneself.

The fact that we rate quick talkers as more capable and appealing than slow talkers surprised me. I recently spoke at a conference in Chicago around the digital customer experience and felt that the presenters speaking more slowly possessed more confidence and knowledge around their respective topic areas. Given that it was my first public speaking engagement, I still had an immense amount of respect for all of the other presenters irrespective of personality type since getting on stage and sharing your ideas takes courage.

Q: Did you learn any lessons that will help or change how you interact with the people around you?

A: I definitely agree with Susan when she wrote: “If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good and bad ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail, while good ones get squashed.” When I’m in a meeting, I always pay attention to those who choose not to raise their voices. I understand that the most talkative person in the room isn’t always the person we should listen to most. As Susan described, there are many times where “the opinion of the most talkative person prevailed to the detriment of all.”

While it’s important to respect personality types and individual preferences, I also feel it’s important to encourage the individuals who are more quiet to make their voices heard. This doesn’t mean working towards becoming the most talkative person in the room either. There are so many ways to share ideas, and the medium used to share those ideas is totally up the individual. I agree that “it’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”

Q: How do you think you could apply the lessons from Quiet to your workplace?

A: Since I work with a mix of personality types, I love planning company activities that can bring people together. We read Quiet as part of our monthly book club that I help organize. This gives colleagues a chance to express themselves in an environment outside of their typical day-to-day and build relationships with people they might not work with directly.

I am lucky in the sense that I get to run with my ideas for these company events because we have budget set aside for them. Recently, many of my colleagues learned how to trapeze at Trapeze School New York. Even the extroverts were nervous to jump off of the platform and trust the harness attached to them. It’s easy for introverts to feel like the underdogs, but experiences like trapeze level that field and create a unique bonding experience where everyone wants to see each other succeed. After reading Quiet, I feel more inspired to continue planning these events for my team.

Muck Rack provides software and solutions that help public relations professionals and journalists do their jobs more effectively. Hundreds of communications teams at global brands, agencies and fast-growing startups use our all-in-one platform to build and maintain relationships with relevant journalists, increase coverage, monitor the media, collaborate with teammates and quantify the impact of their work. To learn more about how teams leverage Muck Rack, check out our case studies.