Are architects introverts?

Contemplating my previous post on architects speaking out, I started wondering if the problem was architects are introverts.

Q: Are architects introverts?

It was a random question and came mind as I considered my previous post, The problem of architects speaking out. A popular post and I’ve been contemplating why. As well as what I might need to rethink and what I might be missing.
(Worth reading the previous post before this one.)

In my rumination I considered my own traits. What came to mind was I was more comfortable writing than speaking out loud. That’s classic introversion.

Our culture has an extroversion bias. Susan Cain writes extensively on it in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

I wondered,

Am looking at this through the lens of extroversion?

Am I guilty of reinforcing the limiting stereotypical thinking that I’m also subject to as an introvert?

What if architects (as a profession) are introverts?

Does this change the conversation around architects speaking out and finding their voice?

Probably…

Maybe…

The evidence for architects as introverts

In an interview with Susan Cain in Scientific American, she observed:

“An interesting line of research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist suggests that the most creative people in many fields are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.”

Not conclusive evidence, but nevertheless on this basis I posit that the architecture profession self-selects for a higher proportion of introverts. Introversion in the general populous is understood to be around a third of people, we might therefore reasonably assume over half the population of architects are introverts.

An introverted profession

So why identify the profession as introverted? Because it helps temper the need many architects have, in the world of extraverts, for having a louder voice. Instead focussing on doing the important work, doing what they can to contribute to making the world better.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

If we consider the profession as a whole is introverted, it shifts their perception of themselves in the world. It impacts the perception of how they might advance and identify what is of value and the value of the profession. Rethinking the narrative around the problem that architects voices are not loud enough. Whilst also acknowledging there’s a lot of quiet change being delivered by the profession and it’s not being heard, it’s not extroverted.

I’m not suggesting the profession is quietly doing enough. I don’t think it is. Introversion should not be used as a place to hide from doing the hard work of promoting the profession, its insights and purpose. It’s simply a way of reframing the thinking and allowing for more diversity in the way architects go about contributing in public discourse. There needs to be a full spectrum of approaches, rather than a singular pursuit of a higher profile.

So what does this mean for architects speaking out?

I don’t know yet.

I don’t think it changes any of the ideas I wrote in my previous post. It confirms a view that architects need to embrace what works for them and in a variety of ways. Using their voice in a way that they’re able. (Note, “able” but not necessarily comfortable, because nothing changes in our comfort zones.)

It suggests we need a kinder, more inclusive discussion around architects speaking up.

Your turn

I write because I’m an introvert, to think and work things out. I haven’t yet worked out how the architects voice may be better heard in public discourse and speak up. They need not be singularly focussed on this. They do need to focus on doing their work and making change happen. Realistically, doing all the things is better.

The best way to work things out is to discuss this further. I’m keen to be challenged on what I’ve written. To hear different opinions or perspectives. I’m curious, what might I need to rethink? What have I got wrong? What haven’t I considered? What might architects need to try?

What do you think?


Picture by Inga Seliverstova [edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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Are architects introverts?

Contemplating my previous post on architects speaking out, I started wondering if the problem was architects are introverts.