I always have struggled with the question:
“Are you an extrovert or introvert?”
Like most people, I don’t quite fit into either category. In this article and video I want to introduce you to the concept of an ambivert:
Ambivert: Someone who exhibits qualities of both introversion and extroversion.
Extroversion and introversion describe how someone reacts to people.
Research has found that how we react to people is physiological. This study found that we judge someone’s level of extroversion or introversion immediately–often based on facial structure. For example:
We also can self-select our tendency toward extroversion. Which explanation sounds more like you?
- I am drawn to people, I get energy from social gatherings and am pretty outgoing. (Extrovert)
- It’s draining to be around lots of people. I prefer peace, solitude and quiet time. I usually crave alone time in my free time. (Introvert)
- It depends. (Ambivert)
I will use the terms as labels for the sake of the article, but let’s get one thing straight:
It’s Not a Label, It’s a Spectrum
Instead of thinking about extroversion or introversion as labels, let’s use an extroversion spectrum:
When I talk about the Big 5 Personality Traits I explain the extroversion scale. You can rank low, high or medium. People who fall in the middle of the spectrum are called ambiverts.
Why Ambiverts Are Awesome
Many people assume that extroverts are the best at sales, the best leaders and are the most successful at work—WRONG! Adam Grant, an associate professor at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed 35 separate studies and found the statistical relationship between extroversion and income was basically zero.
He conducted a personality survey and collected three-month sales records for more than 300 salespeople, both male and female. The people who ranked right in the middle for extraversion and introversion (ambiverts) turned out to be the best salespeople.
Ambiverts pulled in 24 percent more revenue than introverts, and a mind-boggling 32 percent more revenue than extroverts!
Grant guessed that ambiverts seem to strike a balance between the two more extreme personality traits:
“The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited,” Grant said.
1. Are You An Ambivert?
First, lets find out how you rank on the scale. Do you think you might be an ambivert? Or do you know one in your life? Take the Ambivert Quiz:
2. Situational Introversion
Ambiverts typically slide up and down the spectrum depending on the situation, context and people around them. I call this situational introversion.
For example, certain locations make me extremely nervous and quiet—nightclubs, rooftop bars and stereotypically ‘chic’ places make me feel super out of place. Whereas, in learning environments — such as classrooms, workshops or seminars — you can’t get me to shut up. I constantly have my hand raised, try to make friends with everyone sitting within 10 feet of me and always ask for extra credit.
If you want to master your people skills you have to build a solid foundation.
3. Find Your Nourishing Locations
I split locations into three categories: Survive, Neutral and Thrive.
Use this list of common places to find your top three thrive locations — where you are your best self, and your top three survive locations — where you dread going.
- House Party
- Board Rooms
- Office Meetings
- Coffee Shops
- Cocktail Party
- Backyard BBQ
- Networking Event
For example, here are mine:
When you know where you thrive, you can build your schedule and your time around the locations where you can be your best self.
4. Find Your Nourishing People
Who brings out the best in you? People also can affect where we fall on the extroversion scale. Are there people you dread seeing? How about people you can’t get enough of?
Right now, make a list of the toxic and nourishing people in your life:
See every person on that nourishing list? Text, email or call them right now to get together.
See every person on that toxic list: You deserve to be around people who sustain you.
5. The Ambivert Advantage
Being able to balance both extroversion and introversion is an asset. Study these associated traits, courtesy of Larry Kim:
- Flexible: Ambiverts typically can adapt to context and situations more easily.
- Stable: According to psychologist Hans Eysenck, who coined the term “ambivert” in 1947, ambiverts offer a good balance between the hypersensitivity of some introverts and the domineering attitude of some extroverts.
- Intuitive: Daniel Pink said that ambiverts “know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.”
6. Amplify Your Ambiversion
Now I want you to leverage your ambiversion! Here’s how:
- “The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited,” Grant said. Know when to flexibly use the traits that serve you.
- I want you to take control of who and how you spend your time. I am giving you permission—you do not have to spend time with people or in places that drain you.
Life is too short to spend time with toxic people in draining places!
- If you have to see a toxic person—such as a family member or co-worker–use time-blocking to buffer time with them. If you know you have to see them, be sure to schedule in some recharge time for yourself before or after. You also can have an escape route or excuse ready to go if your time with them runs long. Use scheduling to your advantage by blocking out times and places that work best for your personality.
Remember: There is no right or wrong personality type. The only right thing to do is to live, act and address who you really are. Act on your strengths, purge toxicity and get to know your true self.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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