02 September, 2013

Extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts

Our youngest was sad on the first day of school last week. It was a half-day. CAJ always starts with a half-day (8.30-12) and it just wasn't enough social interaction for him after 11 long weeks away from his friends. He is a classic extrovert. When he came home he stuck to me like glue, hoping I'd give him the happiness he wanted.
Our strongly introverted son working quietly on his own.

He is such a contrast to our middle son who is quite the introvert. Thankfully he's beginning to understand that instead of taking it out on us when he returns home, he can retreat to his room for some time to recharge.

I've been thinking more about extroversion and introversion recently and I've discovered a term that suits me far better than these extremes: ambivert.
ambivert: a person who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personality (Origin: 1920s) From here.
 This blog post describes my dilemma very well. The comments after the post are from people like me, who have been confused by the strong dichotomous descriptors of extrovert vs introvert.

Here's another article that talks about the complexities of personality and how we're all on a continuum. I love this quote from the webpage:
The notion of Ambiversion changed my life. Previously, when filling in a personality type questionnaire, I”d hesitate when answering questions like: “would you prefer to go to a party or read a book?”  My first thought was “Depends on the party or book and also how tired I am from the previous night.” But that contextual option wasn’t available. Now I realize what a gift it is to be sensible, reasonable and well balanced enough to have the freedom of choice.
And this one:
I’m an Ambivert with 70 shades of Introvert and 30 shades of Extrovert! What are you? 
The Myer-Briggs calls me an Extrovert with a strong Introvert shadow, but I think an Ambivert is a more helpful descriptor. I couldn't understand, for example, why I could be so excited about having visitors to stay, and yet after a day or so, find myself seeking out privacy in my bedroom (something I rarely do when it is just the five of us here). It seemed weird, but now I understand. Sometimes my extrovert side is stronger, other times my introvert side. And I need to work at getting a balance because if I get too much solitude or too much social interaction I get worn out and grumpy.

Try this simple questionnaire, if you're thinking you might be in the ambivert range.


Jim said...

I'm just not sure I buy this whole "ambivert" thing. Ok, so I haven't done a lot of study on the topic, but it seems to me that it comes from the myth that introverts don't like people or don't enjoy being with people. Most that I know do. It's just not energizing for them over the long term the way it is for an extrovert.

So when it comes to the Assessment you linked to - I really think most questions could be answered either way by extroverts or introverts - with a possible exception of "When I am around people for a long time, my energy fades." - although even then, extroverts do get tired! :)

Ken Rolph said...

It's not whether introverts like people. It's whether they need them. Extroverts are the ones with the problem when they have to be on their own.

Imagine a mixed couple facing retirement. The introvert happily stays home alone and works in the garden, shed, study. Goes out occasionally into public life (library, shops). The extrovert wanders around restless and uptight, then look for volunteer work, part time jobs, anything to get into contact with other people.

Personally I get out of going to parties whenever I can. If I am forced to go to one I find a quiet corner, shut my eyes and repeat to myself, "It'll be over soon".

Wendy said...

Hi Jim, I can understand your ambivalence. For me, ambivert describes me better than extrovert or introvert. I have some of the characteristics of both. It depends on the situation and context how I react. In some groups I can be very extroverted, other groups I'm the quiet one in the corner. It is very confusing to be told that I have to "fit" one personality type or the other.

I had questions about the questionnaire too. But many personality questionnaires I feel that I could answer either way, depending on circumstances.

Ken Rolph said...

I did that survey. I came out an ambivert. I suspect most people who do the survey will. It seems designed to demonstrate that the terms introvert and extrovert are just the labels at either end of a long continuum where most of the people are in the middle.

Karen Ellrick said...

The test says I'm also an ambivert, but that test shares the same flaw with almost all other tests on this topic: it does not delineate between vocational/ministry settings and social/recreational settings. I'm a pretty strong extrovert when it comes to recreation - when nothing is hanging on my interpersonal skills. In that setting, I don't mind being the center of attention - I'm not shy per se. And I don't find much joy in doing fun things alone - I want to share the experience with someone. But when it comes to vocations that involve people, like teacher, manager, counselor, and yes, even the stereotypical roles of missionaries, I find them challenging and stressful - I'm much better working with "things" than people. I love helping people, but the way I can do that best is by solving problems that involve "things". And I'm perfectly happy to be in support roles instead of the spotlight.