Most people might not be extroverts or introverts but 'ambiverts' — here's what it means to be one
- As well as extroverts and introverts, there are "ambiverts" who lie somewhere in the middle.
- Researchers predict about two thirds of us are ambiverts.
- They are people who sometimes like to socialise but other times they want to be alone.
- As with all personality types, there are benefits and drawbacks.
People often categorise themselves into one of two types: an extrovert or an introvert.
Stereotypically, extroverts are the life of the party, and like nothing more than socialising with friends and meeting new people. Introverts are happier going home alone and curling up with a book.
But as research has shown, extroversion and introversion lie on a spectrum. In fact, it might not be a case of being one or the other, but a mixture of both. These people are called "ambiverts," and one study predicts up to two thirds of us could be labeled as this instead.
For example, when I'm in the mood I can be the last person standing at a party. But there are also days I'd prefer to go home early and spend some time alone. People like me don't fit into the rigid categories of extrovert or introvert, because sometimes I'll be one, and the next day I'll be the other.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science in 2013, highlighted some of the traits of ambiverts, by looking at how they sold products. The results showed that out of everyone, ambiverts made the best sales people.
According to the author Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, this could be because ambiverts are better at understanding other people's emotions. Rather than talking too much, or too little, ambiverts managed to do just the right amount — and make more sales as a result.
"Ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extroverts or introverts do," the study concludes. "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."
As Grant told the Wall Street Journal: "Ambiverts are like Goldilocks — they offer neither too much nor too little."
However, they have drawbacks too. Ambiverts can find it difficult to know which side of their personality to lead in certain situations. While extroverts and introverts are fairly sure what they prefer, and what situations they thrive in, ambiverts may struggle to decide.
Because of this, they might find themselves demotivated but not understanding why. They might not realise they need to change their approach to a situation to feel more motivated.
The idea of an ambivert has been around for a while, since psychiatrist Carl Jung brought the concepts of extroversion and introversion into the mainstream in the 1920s. He theorised there was a middle group, but psychologists didn't start using the term ambivert until the 1940s.
If you want to find out if you're an ambivert, there's a test you can take developed by Daniel Pink, an author who writes about human behaviour. You can try it here.
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