Not an Introvert, Not an Extrovert? You May Be An Ambivert

WEB DESK: When he goes out for dinner or drinks with friends, he sometimes quietly observes people’s facial expressions and body language. Often when he’s shopping or running errands, he ignores people he knows—pretending he doesn’t see them—to avoid small talk.

Still, he considers himself friendly and meets new people almost everywhere. Is he an introvert or an extrovert?

He is an ambivert, a solid mix of both.

The personality traits of extroversion and introversion fall on a spectrum, and most of experts’ focus has been on the two ends. Now, social psychologists, behavioral scientists and business experts are taking a closer look at the overlooked category smack in the middle—ambiversion—and deciding that people with this trait may have some personal and professional advantages for being adaptable.

Experts believe that the personality traits on the introvert-extrovert spectrum remain stable throughout life—they appear as early as infanthood and are difficult to change. On one end are extroverts (sometimes spelled “extravert” in psychology circles) who become energized externally. They love to have lots of people around them and to be the center of attention. They enjoy brainstorming with others and often form their thoughts as they speak. When by themselves, they easily become bored or restless.

Introverts, on the other end of the spectrum, become energized internally. They prefer to spend time alone, with one other person or with a small group. They feel drained by a lot of social interaction or a crowd. They gather their thoughts carefully before they speak.

Ambiverts have introverted and extroverted traits, but neither trait is dominant. As a result, they have more balanced, or nuanced, personalities. They aren’t the folks yammering your ear off. Nor are they the totally silent ones happily ensconced in the corner.

Ambiverts move between being social or being solitary, speaking up or listening carefully with greater ease than either extroverts or introverts. “It is like they’re bilingual,” says Daniel Pink, a business book author and host of Crowd Control, a TV series on human behavior, who has studied ambiversion. “They have a wider range of skills and can connect with a wider range of people in the same way someone who speaks English and Spanish can.”

You can tell if you’re an ambivert by asking yourself how you’d behave in common situations. What do you crave after a long day at work when you need to refuel—a happy hour with friends, or your couch and the remote control? At a social event, at what point do you want to leave—as soon as you get there or after the last person has left? In a conversation, do you prefer to think through your answers before speaking, or throw out whatever idea comes to mind and bat it back and forth?

If you’re an ambivert, your preference will often be somewhere in the middle—you choose to have a drink with a friend after work but then afterward go home and take a long walk with the dog.

The drawback to being an ambivert, Dr. Grant says, is that it can sometimes be difficult for them to know which side of their personality to lead within a given situation. Unlike extroverts and introverts, who tend to know what energizes them, ambiverts may not always be so sure.

Source: The Wall Street Journal