5 Signs You Might Be an Ambivert (And What to Do if You’re Not)

Every time I type the word “ambivert” into Microsoft Word, it asks me if I meant to type “ambient.” Firefox gives me another alternative: “ambivalent.”

Microsoft Word and Firefox have it wrong. Ambient and ambivalent are nice words, but they’re not what I meant to type. No matter how many times they try to red-squiggly-underline the word ambivert, they won’t stop it from being a real word (albeit one that few people know) that describes approximately 38% of people. Yep, nearly four out of ten people are ambiverts.

As I write in my book The Ambivert Mindset: Discover How to Unlock Your Best Self by Igniting Your Curiosity and Living Beyond the Introvert-Extrovert Divide, “ambivert” is a relatively old term (dating back to almost a century ago) that has been crowded out by its much more popular pals: introvert and extrovert.

So What’s an Ambivert?

In the most basic sense, an ambivert is a person who is both introverted and extroverted. By this very basic definition, it would seem that almost all of us are ambiverts because, except for those with the most extreme personalities, we all have a little bit of introvert and a little bit of extrovert in us no matter which personality we display the most. For example, a person may be more extroverted overall, but engage in more states of introversion at certain times, maybe when they are going through a tough time in their life or when they buckle down at work for an intense project that requires them to work alone.

However, we’re not all ambiverts. While we all act both introverted and extroverted to some degree, ambiverts tend to switch back and forth between introverted and extroverted states with greater ease and with more frequency than those who are more solidly introverted or extroverted.

An ambivert will look at this definition:

In general, introverts are more motivated to engage internally. They tend to find too much socializing tiring or uninteresting.

… and then at this definition:

In general, extroverts are more motivated to engage externally. They tend to find too much alone time tiring or uninteresting.

… and say, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure either of those really describe me.”

It Seems Like No One Really Cares About Ambiverts

Despite the fact that ambiverts can have good qualities, they are often forgotten. Sandwiched solidly between the intriguing introvert and exciting extrovert, the adaptable ambivert can seem very middle of the road—and, let’s face it, the idea of the middle is boring to a lot of people. Gray is kind of blah, but the polarizing black-and-white is hip. For that reason, no one really talks about or studies ambiverts. They just don’t seem that interesting.

These Google News searches pretty much say it all:

Introverts get to hear about themselves all over the news with 98,400 mentions. Despite all the talk of living in an extroverted world, extroverts get a third of that: 31,500. And ambiverts? A paltry 1,240 mentions.

Personally, I think ambiverts are fascinating, and it’s a shame that they’re merely an afterthought in the current dialogue about personality. We’re so often fed the idea that we’re all either introverts or extroverts, two wholly different types of people who can only hope to tolerate each other long enough until we can get back to “our people” who think and act just like us. In reality, there are plenty of people who draw from both ends of the continuum.

About That Continuum…

Here’s the deal with the whole introvert/ambivert/extrovert thing: despite what you might have heard, there aren’t actually personality types. Instead, personality is measured through traits, and traits exist on a continuum from low (0) to high (100).

(Personality research backs up the trait concept: In 2011, University of Melbourne’s head of psychology Nick Haslam examined approximately 200 different studies to determine if personality types existed. The verdict: nope—they exist on a continuum, not as dichotomous types.1)

Traits are normally distributed and resemble a bell curve, which, in layman’s terms, means that most people hover around the middle and a few at the extreme ends. Although personality traits aren’t based on distinct types, you can group the scores and end up with the approximate percentages of each label:

  • 31% Introverts
  • 38% Ambiverts
  • 31% Extroverts

Yep, It’s Actually an Ambivert’s World

Despite the dismal ambivert PR campaign, it’s actually an ambivert’s world. At 38% of the population, there are actually more ambiverts than introverts or extroverts.

(I’m pretty sure I know the reason for the disappearance of the ambivert label, and I share it in The Ambivert Mindset. Check it out if you’re curious!)

So, are you wondering if you’re an ambivert? Here are five signs:

Five Signs You Might Be an Ambivert

  1. You really, really love being around people … and you really, really love your alone time.
  2. Other people have a hard time figuring out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert (and you’ve never really been able to figure it out yourself).
  3. You’re pretty good at adapting to the situation at hand. Need to interact with people all day long? No problem. Need to spend the day quietly working alone? Sounds good.
  4. Your idea of a perfect evening consists of going out with friends for dinner and then coming home and curling up with a good book or watching a movie.
  5. When you’re talking to other people, you’re just as happy to take center stage in the conversation as you are to sit back and listen.

To repeat what I said earlier in the article, an ambivert will look at this definition:

In general, introverts are more motivated to engage internally. They tend to find too much socializing tiring or uninteresting.

… and then at this definition:

In general, extroverts are more motivated to engage externally. They tend to find too much alone time tiring or uninteresting.

… and say, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure either of those really describe me.”

One caveat: Don’t just slap the ambivert label on yourself just because you don’t want to be called an introvert or an extrovert.

If you really like to be on your own, but you can tolerate some socializing … you’re probably an introvert, not an ambivert.

If you really like to be around other people, but don’t mind hanging out by yourself sometimes … you’re probably an extrovert, not an ambivert.

Not a Natural Ambivert? Don’t Worry—You Can Work on That.

I’m of the mindset that ambiversion, while it comes naturally to some people, can also be developed.

Developed ambiverts are go-getters, doers, and achievers. They’re the people who recognize that there is something incredible to be gained by developing their whole self, not just their natural introverted side or natural extroverted side. They evaluate themselves, improve their weaknesses, and further develop their strengths.

Developing your personality with the intent of being more like an ambivert can be a profound, eye-opening, life-altering experience that can help you discover a part of yourself you never knew existed. It can help you build new skills, open you up to new personal and professional opportunities, enable you to be more flexible and adaptable, and, if I’m being honest, make you feel like a complete badass. (As a former introvert, I can attest to each and every one of these benefits.)

In The Ambivert Mindset, I lay the groundwork for exactly how you can do this and why doing it can be incredibly beneficial to you personally, professionally, and socially. It’s packed with actionable advice, the story of my own personality change journey, and the latest research on personality change.

Get your copy from Amazon here: The Ambivert Mindset: Discover How to Unlock Your Best Self by Igniting Your Curiosity and Living Beyond the Introvert-Extrovert Divide

Sources:

Question marks: © Image191 | Megapixl.com

Ambivert: © Radius06 | Megapixl.com

  1. H. (2015). Think you know yourself, think again. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-13/personality-type-truths/6383146

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