April 21, 2016

Ambiverts: Inside the Mind of an Ambivert

Meet Dave, a typical ambivert discovering the ambiverted tendencies that can serve him well and do him harm. Do you resonate with ambiverts like Dave? Find out how to better understand ambiverted tendencies.

A Day in the Life of an Ambivert

Dave wakes up when his alarm goes off at 7:00 am one morning. He gets up, makes himself a simple breakfast, eats it, then gets ready for work. On the drive there, he enjoys the peace and quiet, using the time to think through some things. He arrives at work while pondering a problem in his life, and he kind of wants to talk to someone about it. Hoping to find some of his coworkers, he heads into the kitchen to get coffee.

He’s not disappointed. He finds several people congregated there and he greets them, exchanges small talk with them, and asks their advice about his problem. Some of them have a lot to say about it, and some of them have just a few insightful thoughts. The discussion turns to whether those in the group are introverts or extroverts.

Most are extroverts. A few are introverts. Dave says he doesn’t know.

Neither an Introvert or Extrovert?

Some of them claim he’s definitely an extrovert. He loves parties, doesn’t he? He likes being around people, and he’s outgoing. But a few of them say no, he’s an introvert. He’s a deep thinker and he loves a quiet evening at home reading. Dave heads to his desk very confused.

He spends the rest of the day trying to figure out which personality type he is. He ponders whether he likes being alone or being around others better, and he just can’t decide. Dave tries to remember whether he thinks before he acts or vice versa, and to the best of his memory, it’s about 50/50.

He leaves work and heads to get dinner with some friends still feeling confused. At dinner, he asks his friends’ opinions and they respond about the same way as his coworkers.

As the discussion goes on, Dave starts to feel left out and a bit lost. Everyone but him seems to have a clear picture of what they like and dislike, and he honestly can’t seem to find any preference. He finally goes home and heads to bed still trying to figure it out. The next day, he’ll wake up still wondering what on earth his personality type is.

How to Tell Whether You’re an Ambivert

Dave is an ambivert.

In the book Psychological Types Carl Jung, who coined the terms “introvert” and “extravert”, noted there are people who fall into the middle of the spectrum—the introvert, ambivert, extrovert spectrum. The term “ambivert” didn’t appear until 1947. And it’s only been even more recently that extensive research has been done on what really qualifies as an ambivert.

There’s also still a lot of debate on just how much of the population is ambiverted due to the fact it’s still a fairly ambiguous term. After all, how close to the center do you have to be to be defined in this way? Is an ambivert anyone who isn’t 100% on one side or the other of the introvert-extrovert continuum? Or is it someone who sits fairly close to 50%? And how do you really authoritatively measure someone’s personality type, anyway?

Suffice to say, researchers agree, an ambivert is someone who is so close to the center that they really have no discernible consistent preference when it comes to introverted tendencies versus extroverted tendencies.
Very few people are completely on one side or the other, but the majority of the population will lean clearly one way. But if you don’t⎯consider yourself an ambivert!

Types of Ambivert Tendencies

What tendencies are we talking about here? Well, these types are more than simple personality traits. They are temperaments based on brain chemistry.

While we still have a lot to learn about the intersection between neurology and psychology, in her book The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney theorizes that the reason for these different types is the differing blood paths within our brains.

Some of us are wired to trigger more dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good and satisfied, and some are wired to trigger less.

Some of us, though, sit comfortably in the middle, with dopamine levels that are neither too high nor too low, but rather just right.

So how do you know if you’re an introvert? The simplest way is to realize that neither of the definitions of introverts nor extroverts really sound like you, or they both equally sound like you.

As Inc.com explains,
As an ambivert you enjoy some alone time, but enjoy being in a group of people just as much. You like familiarity, but you also like new things. To process things, you need to both mull them over and talk them out with others. You think about as much as you act.
In short, you’re already a lot more balanced than your introvert and extrovert friends.

Where are All the Ambiverts?

The internet is full of long lists of celebrities, historical figures, and even fictional characters that are introverts, extroverts, INTJs, ESFPs, and pretty much any type you can name⎯except for ambiverts.

Why? Is it that no one who impacted the world has ever been an ambivert?

Not at all. As previously mentioned, it’s only recently that the idea of ambiversion has really begun to surface in today's culture, and there simply hasn’t been enough time to really gather the data necessary to make these kinds of judgments.

It was Dan Pink, in his 2012 book To Sell is Human, who began to popularize this term.

He discovered that ambiverts actually tend to perform well above both introverts and extroverts in sales, both in a business sense and in other areas of life. Meaning whether it be to sell an idea, product, or yourself.

This being the case, we can only assume that many successful people are misconstrued as introverts or extroverts when in fact it may have been their combination of both traits that led them to become what they really are.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Ambiversion, as mentioned, comes with more natural balance than either of the other types and has a lot of advantages. But there are some things to watch out for, especially when it comes to your mindset about yourself. Let’s look back at Dave’s day. Honestly, Dave is doing a lot right. He enjoys his job, enjoys his friends, enjoys his time alone, and he’s up for pretty much anything. But he is bothered by his inability to place himself, not just on the introvert-extrovert continuum, but in life in general.

He enjoys just about anything. He rarely has a favorite or a preference and, in a way, this worries him. Who is he, anyway? Dave needs to realize that it’s okay that there’s not necessarily a clear label that fits him. Instead of interpreting his ability to adapt as uncertain, he should just think of it as flexibility.

He may feel like those around him who staunchly own their introversion and extroversion have the advantage of strongly being one of the other as they know their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences but, in some ways, the reverse is actually true. The danger in this, however, is that because Dave doesn’t have much preference, as entrepreneur Daniel Kao puts it, it‘s easy for him to "become the jack of all trades, having knowledge in many different areas but not necessarily an expert in any of them.”

Find What Works for You

Just because Dave likes almost everything, it doesn’t mean he should or can do everything. In some ways, choosing a path will be harder for him without clear guidelines. But, Dave will need to choose one and stick to it so he doesn’t float around from one thing to another too much.

He also needs to be aware that, while he has the strengths of both the introvert and the extrovert, he is prone to the weaknesses of both as well. Just like they do, he needs to be aware of how things affect him so that he’s not too overstimulated or too understimulated, and he needs to evaluate what drains and what energizes him and adjust his behavior accordingly.

Strengths to embrace

That said, Dave really has some tremendous advantages. Once he accepts his place in the middle of the spectrum, he better positions himself to achieve great balance and fulfillment in his life. He can enjoy time with others, including both 'small talk' and deep topics, but he can also find great pleasure in an evening alone, taking a walk, looking introspectively up at the stars, or watching a movie by himself. He is both creative and practical and gravitates towards a good balance between thinking and acting.
While his lack of natural direction may be difficult to deal with in one sense, it also opens up a whole world of possibilities.
He can draw on both his internal and external focus and use those in conjunction with his natural talent and skills, and his potential is pretty much unlimited! It just takes a bit of decisiveness and, as always, some self-evaluation to arrive at the lifestyle that will bring him the most joy and satisfaction.

A Day in the Life of a Balanced Ambivert

Dave wakes up when his alarm goes off and gets up to make his breakfast and head to work.

He enjoys his drive there, and also enjoys thinking about the party he’s going to later in the evening.

He thinks about his job and about ways he can incorporate flexibility into it while still maintaining a clear career path.

When he arrives at the office, he heads to get coffee and finds several of his co-workers discussing personality types and what they mean.

When they ask Dave about his type, he confidently informs them that he’s an ambivert.

A few of them insist that there’s no such thing and he has to be one or the other, but he knows that isn’t true and it doesn’t bother him.

As he works, he thinks about different things he enjoys and makes plans to single out a couple of hobbies to focus on.

Later, after a quiet dinner at home, he gets ready to go out to a friend’s birthday party.

While there, he enjoys small talk with strangers and friends alike and also gets into some deeper discussions about life and important issues.

After a few hours, he notices that he’s beginning to feel a bit drained, so he bids his host goodbye and heads home, enjoying the solitude once again.

He goes to bed and falls asleep, ready to wake up to another balanced, enjoyable day tomorrow.

See alsoPersonality vs. Character: Are They Really that Different?

Be Like Dave

Dave’s day really changed very little on the outside, but it’s his new perspective on the inside that makes all the difference. He’s focused, at peace with himself, his traits, and his preferences. And, just as importantly, he now embraces his unique abilities. All it took was a matter of accepting himself and being aware of how things affect him and when it’s time to switch from one mode to another to give him a much smoother and happier day.

Take a few minutes to evaluate yourself and see what you can do to really embrace the freedom and flexibility of being an ambivert.

Check out the other articles in this 4-part series which include: "Inside the Mind of Extroverts, Introverts, and Ambiverts."