Neither an extrovert nor introvert? Perhaps you’re an ambivert

Neither an extrovert nor introvert? Perhaps you’re an ambivert

Personality-style tests seem to be flooding my social media timelines at the moment.  Whether it’s ‘What Game of Thrones character are you?’, or ‘How OCD are you?’,these quizzes are all seeking to crudely categorise and pigeonhole someone’s personality type.

For many, these tests are a way of understanding the more abstract traits of our character, and rationalising why we behave a certain way in particular situations. Very often, people describe themselves as being one of two types – ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. But what if you display character traits of both, and don’t feel comfortable labelling yourself as one? Possibly it’s because you’re a lesser known ‘ambivert’.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung argued, “there is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

Instead Jung identified a third personality type on the introverted-extroverted spectrum, but it’s one that we hardly hear anything about. In his work Psychological Types, he wrote:”There is, finally, a third group … the most numerous and includes the less differentiated normal man … He constitutes the extensive middle group.”

This middle group has since become known as ‘ambiverts’, which according to Jung represents the majority of the population. Although awareness of the term ‘ambivert’ is low, it seems to slowly be rising in popularity, for good reason.

Ambiverts occupy the gulf between the polar extremes of extroversion and introversion, personifying key attributes of both personality types. For example, ambiverts may avoid being the centre of attention, but when a topic of interest comes up in conversation, they may be confident talking in great detail about it. But as soon as that conversation ends, they’ll be happy to sit and listen without saying another word. Ambiverts know how to assert their opinions, without being arrogant or aggressive, which can be the makings of a hugely successful business person. For example, former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, who racked up a personal net worth of $22.5bn, is said to be an ambivert.

The majority of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders are most probably ambiverts, due to their innate ability to adapt and engage in both introverted and extroverted tasks. Adam Grant, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, who published the 2013 research paper ‘Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage’, found: “ambiverts were much better at toggling back and forth between leading and following, and initiating ideas and reacting to them.”  Great business leaders need to be able to command the energy and charisma of an extrovert, but at the same time they must be capable of deep concentration and focus, possess keen observational skills and have some capacity for self-reflection…traits which are most commonly associated with introverts.

Grant’s research examined the correlation between extroversion and sales aptitude, and found that ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts. Using a personality assessment test, it measured introversion and extroversion on a scale from 1 to 7.The employees who scored at the exact midpoint of 4.0 averaged the highest hourly revenue, far exceeding their introvert and extrovert colleagues. Grant explains that “because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”

Ambiverts possess the important attribute of ‘balance’, which is what gives them such potential for success. If you think you may be an ambivert, here are 10 of the most common traits to look out for:

  1. You find networking worthwhile and interesting, but only when you have a friend or colleague in tow
  2. You can be extremely effective at connecting people with other relevant individuals
  3. Spending a lot of time with other people can be exhausting. A team building day, for example, will see you craving some solitude by the end of it
  4. It takes a true friend to know you and appreciate your innate sense of confidence, which never comes across as arrogance
  5. You avoid confrontation and find it tricky to assert your opinions, but when you really try to you are eloquent and nail it!
  6. When you read articles about introverts you can relate to most things, but then when you see things written about extroverts you realise you possess some of those traits too
  7. You have the ability to be flexible, and often occupy the ‘middle ground’
  8. You are naturally intuitive and know when to speak and when to be quiet
  9. You’re emotionally stable, and are not easily rocked by external factors
  10. Your confident and professional business style may be different to how your friends see you outside of work



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