Society tends to divide people into two types of personalities: Introverts and extroverts.
An introvert draws energy from quietness and reflection and may be happier working in solitude. An extrovert, on the other hand, thrives on being around people, engaging with others and social connections.
Of course, not everyone fits into these categories. Although introverts and extroverts are often viewed in terms of two extreme opposites, most people lie somewhere in the middle of the two.
But if you feel like neither of these descriptions sound like you, you may be an ambivert.
“An ambivert is someone who has both introvert and extrovert qualities,” says Suzanne Guest, registered occupational psychologist at Work in Mind. “It’s easy to think of people as being one or the other, but personality traits are on a spectrum and an ambivert would sit in the middle.”
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concepts of introversion and extroversion to psychology in the early 1900s. He believed some people gained energy from their own company and needed alone time to “recharge” after social situations. In a workplace setting, they may find it easier to work in a quieter office, at home, or who enjoys projects that require deep thinking.
On the other hand, extroverts are stereotypically the life of the party. They feel energised by interacting with others and enjoy bouncing ideas around with people and problem-solving.
In 2019, a study by the Universities of Toronto and Minnesota found that more extroverted employees enjoyed greater motivation, work-life balance, and adapted better to different social situations.
So what do ambiverts bring to the workplace? “Ambiverts can be incredibly beneficial to the workplace as they have a good understanding of both introverts and extraverts,” Guest explains. “They are good at being around people but also understand that people need to have time to themselves.
“This isn’t to say that people at the extremes of the spectrum are not beneficial to the workplace, but it is a case of understanding that people have different preferred styles,”
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Guest says. “The introvert isn’t being awkward, they just like to work things out in their head. And the extrovert isn’t being domineering, they just need to verbalise their thoughts. The ambivert can be an excellent team player by understanding the needs of their colleagues.”
It makes sense that many people have a balance of introverted and extroverted traits. Having some quiet time at work might be necessary to focus on a task that requires concentration and sometimes, we just want some downtime. At other times, though, we may want to be around others to bounce ideas around — or get a boost from being around our colleagues.
In 2013, organisational psychologist Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania highlighted some of the traits of ambiverts by exploring how they sold products. The results showed that out of everyone, ambiverts made the best sales people.
According to Grant’s research, 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 found. “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.”
Essentially, being ambivert means being aware of your own social style and altering it to fit the situation, which is a sought-after leadership attribute.
“Ambiverts can make fantastic leaders,” says Guest. “They are able to see the qualities in all their team, and distribute work appropriately. They can give an introvert time and space to generate ideas, and an extrovert roles that utilise their need for connection.”
Although both introverts and extroverts can make good leaders, this can give ambiverts a real advantage. “If they show awareness and appreciation of the opposite preferences, the ambivert has a real understanding of both introvert and extrovert qualities as they experience this in real life rather than trying to see things from another point of view,” Guest says.
The good news is that anyone can be more ambivert. While it might come more naturally to some people, assessing a situation and adjusting to it is a skill anyone can hone over time.
It’s possible for introverts to be sociable — and it’s possible for extroverts to engage in quiet, reflective time.