Shy people are often very creative and thoughtful, expressing through writing, art and music what they find difficult to express in words. However, modern market research techniques often fail to bring these characteristics to the surface.
Shyness and diffidence are not qualities one naturally looks for in a research participant (screeners often specify that only outgoing people should attend groups), and it can seem that in a world of selfies and social media we live in a world of extroverts. However, the technologies that allow the projection of personal lives into public spaces also allow the shy to express themselves fully using ‘texts, tweets and social … to say the things that embarrass us’.
In effect we have the mechanics, and an audience who knows how to use these tools, so that we can now speak with this class of shy authors. When Hook conducts research, it seeks to look at the totality of an audience from the extroverted to the more low-key – using our unique 4D methodology to blend opinions and achieve a broad perspective of a subject being discussed.
Emojis: Not just for texting
Recently, Hook explored mindfulness amongst young audiences, and how they were being affected by the changes that come with growing up.
To ensure we had a rounded understanding of the area, we intentionally recruited a large number of shy children who did not feel confident expressing their thoughts. Rather than using question and answers we created a set of emojis that allowed kids to express themselves without having to commit to complex answers that revealed too much of themselves (and it seems like we were ahead of the curve – just check out this new Wired article on emojis and language). Some – having done that – wanted to open up more, but the key was unlocking their thoughts initially.
With adults we haven’t used emojis (yet) but we have designed other techniques aimed at accessing and understanding the thoughts of naturally shy people.
When exploring radio habits of older audiences who didn’t feel comfortable with a group environment or the idea of being visited by a researcher, we sent them voice recorders. Over the course of a week, we asked them to tell us what they were listening to, how it made them feel and what they were looking for in the future. This sort of method has a strong lineage – Agatha Christie did not like dictating to a secretary so spoke her ideas into a dictaphone to collect ideas for her writing.
Other market research techniques for shy participants
We have also used free-writing techniques with idea creation – setting out an idea or topic area in group, and allowing respondents in silence to write their ideas down without any pressure from the group or moderator. This technique of shy authordom helps us get different perspectives and new ideas (it also ensures every voice in a room is heard).
In short, at Hook Research we feel that for research to matter it has to take account of the breadth of personalities and voices there are, and although extroverted, outgoing people are important in this mix, we should also develop market research techniques and methods that tap the creativity of the shy and less effusive among us.
If you want to learn more about the way we engage with respondents, check out our blog on Talking Human.