I love having a career where I can work from home.
I spend a lot of time writing, researching, and creating courses and other content. All of this is done alone but for the company of my trusty little Mac.
Working from home gives me a ton of flexibility and allows me to focus on my work without too many distractions. I enjoy the quiet time when I can brainstorm and reflect without someone in a neighboring cubicle coming by to shoot the shit.
But every couple of days I start to go stir crazy. I get agitated and feel isolated. I stare out the window, waving at random passers by, hoping they might come in and, well, shoot the shit.
Even though I work and live with my life partner, Ron, I miss the company of my friends and family. I miss having a team of people to bat ideas around with. I miss feeling the energy of other people around me.
When this happens, I call my friends to arrange a group dinner. I'll schedule time to visit my young adult children. Or Ron and I will meet up with another couple for the evening.
Sometimes I'll arrange to participate in a webinar or podcast with other online entrepreneurs or attend local a networking meeting.
Spending time with smallish groups of people fills up my emotional tank and allows me to express the extroverted bits of my personality. But after a few hours around people and putting myself out there, I'm ready to be on my own again.
If I had to label myself, I'd say I'm an extroverted introvert. But there's another word that better captures the personality type of those of us who aren't all introvert or all extrovert. We are ambiverts.
Are you an ambivert personality?
To understand ambiverts, you need to know a little about the whole personality typing thing.
The notion of introversion and extroversion came about when Swiss psychologist Carl Jung coined the terms in his 1920's work, Psychologische Typen (Psychological Types).
Jung felt that the differences in introverts and extroverts came down to energy. Extraverts are more energized by social interactions, whereas introverts are quickly drained by them.
Therefore, extraverts pay more attention to their outer worlds, and introverts are more reflective and focused.
Other theories suggest the preferences exhibited by introverts and extroverts are due to differing levels of cortical arousal (the speed and amount of the brain's activity). Introverts have naturally higher cortical arousal than extroverts, and introverts process more information per second.
Yet another theory suggests that the brains of extroverts are more sensitive to rewards, like the rewards you get during social interactions, making them more inclined to hobnobbing with others.
Many studies have shown that the brains of introverts and extroverts are quite different, and each personality type has it's own set of strengths and weaknesses.
However, the traits of introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle of that continuum. We might lean a little more one way or the other. But we all have a little bit of each type within us.
Those who tend to fall more in the middle are ambiverts, as this illustration shows.
If you have an ambivert personality, you have reason to celebrate. You, my friends, have a bit of an advantage over more “pure” introverts or extraverts. Why? Because you can more easily adapt to various situations and settings, allowing you to sway with the wind so to speak.
Wind swaying allows you to see both sides of the picture, to be more flexible and intuitive, and to better calibrate your behavior and reactions, thus leading to more successful encounters.
This happy little factoid has gained traction after Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, published a study in Psychological Science suggesting that ambiverts perform better as salespeople than extroverts because of ambiverts' more adaptive personalities.
Says Dr. Grant, “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 an interesting aside, Grant found that extraverts didn't outperform introverts in this same study. These two extreme personality types brought in just about the same percentage of sales. Who knew?
Since most of us are ambiverts, it's helpful to know the signs of ambiversion to see if you resonate with this personality type description.
Here are 10 clues you might be an ambivert:
1. You are adaptable.
Ambiverts have the ability to adapt to the situation they are in. They are comfortable in a much wider range of situations than introverts or extroverts.
If you are at a social gathering, you feel comfortable engaging in conversation and talking with a variety of people.
You can be in a group setting without feeling like you want to run away — at least not initially.
But when it's time to head home, put on your sweatpants, and cuddle up with a good book or your favorite TV show, you are perfectly happy as well.
2. You are a middle of the road risk taker.
Extraverts tend to be more comfortable taking risks and living life on the edge. They might hop on a plane for weekend getaway at the last minute, or they might make an impulsive decision to buy a new car.
Introverts are much more reserved and cautious when it comes to risk. They will weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision about something that has potential negative consequences.
However, those of us who are ambiverts are willing to take risks, but not all the time. An ambivert has the capacity to make an impulsive decision and throw caution to the wind.
But there are times when you know you need to be more thoughtful and careful about your decisions.
3. You know when to talk and when to listen.
Because ambiverts are adaptable, they are good at reading a person or situation to determine whether they should use their gift of gap or tune in with their strong listening skills.
This is one reason Dr. Adam Grant found that ambiverts are better sales people. They are good at listening to the customer, but they also have strong skills in closing a sale.
Because all of us interact with different types of people, ambiverts have an advantage because they can shift from relating as an introvert or as an extrovert.
4. You can perform tasks alone or in a group.
Introverts much prefer to work alone and feel overwhelmed and drained if they are forced into group situations. Extraverts are energized by working with and around other people and feel isolated and uninspired working by themselves.
Ambiverts do well in both settings. There are times they enjoy working alone and feel more productive without others around.
However, an ambivert might soon crave time with other people in order to recharge and get motivated.
5. You like activity and down time.
Ambiverts enjoy spending time with friends and family, socializing, and staying busy. Until they don't.
An ambivert might hit the wall suddenly and decide they need some down time.
Ambiverts prefer a mix of activity and quiet leisure. How much of each depends on where they fall on the continuum between introversion and extraversion.
6. You can take or leave small talk.
Small talk makes an introvert want to chew his or her foot off. They will do just about anything to extricate themselves from an idle chit chat. They much prefer deep and meaningful conversation.
An ambivert can handle small talk and even participate with ease, but they find it boring and superficial after a while.
They know small talk is part of socializing, but eventually an ambivert wants to move on to a more substantive conversation.
7. You're trusting and skeptical of other people.
When an ambivert meets someone new, they might immediately open up and share personal information with this new person. They might feel trusting right away and see the best in this person.
But other times, not so much. Their introverted, intuitive side taps them on the shoulder with a warning: “Don't spill the beans with this person. They can't be trusted.”
An ambivert isn't trusting with everyone, but they are more willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt than perhaps an total introvert might be.
8. You can be the center of attention — for just so long.
Sometimes it's fun to be the life of the party and have all eyes on you.
Being the center of attention isn't all bad for an ambivert, but then there are times you just want to blend into the crowd.
You might begin to feel drained if the attention is on you for too long, and you're ready to pass the baton to someone else after an hour or so.
9. You have a split decision on the Myers Briggs test.
If you've ever taken the Myers Briggs personality test, you know that you receive a score that shows whether you're more introverted or extraverted.
Ambiverts tend to have a split score with a similar number for introversion and extraversion. You may trend slightly more one way or the other, but the scores are pretty close.
If you haven't taken the Myers Briggs assessment, here's a free version you can take.
10. Different people view me differently.
The Myers Briggs results show that you are a blend of introversion and extraversion, but the people in your life might view you as one extreme or the other.
Because you are adaptable, you can change your behavior based on the situation you are in.
If you're at a social event chatting it up with everyone, then the people around you are sure you're an extravert.
But on those nights when you just want to curl up with a book by yourself while your friends go out and party, you'll be labeled an introvert.
The keys to enjoying the advantages of your ambivert personality type are self-awareness and attention to your environment.
By learning more about ambiverts and finding out your personality type score, you'll be more in tune with your natural abilities to adapt.
You'll also find yourself thinking about how you should behave and react before you engage in a business or social event.
Knowing that you're about to make a presentation to the quiet, introspective potential client, you don't want to go into the meeting with both guns blazing.
Nor do you want to be the shy, retiring wallflower in a boisterous brainstorming meeting with your outspoken, extraverted boss.
You have the emotional capacity to shift when you need to shift and feel comfortable doing so. Optimizing this flexibility can help you be more successful in your relationships, career, and in all aspects of your life.