For as long as I remember, I have been an introvert, preferring books and my own company to other people. But as I grew older and started appreciating people, I realised that I actually like engaging with people some of the time, especially when we are having an interesting conversation. This made me realise while I will never be an extrovert who likes being the centre of attraction, I was not the introvert I was growing up. That’s when I learnt that I may be an ambivert instead.
So, what are all the definitions of such people?
Extroverts are those who tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. Extroverts are energised and thrive off being around other people, taking pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, including activities like parties, community activities, public demonstrations and business or political groups. They also tend to work well in groups and is more likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone as they tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.
Extroverts are wired for enthusiasm. Research has found that extroverts are more likely to associate pleasurable feelings with their current environment, according to one analysis of neurological differences between introverts and extroverts. They are more likely to be a leader with research findings showing that most leaders self-identify as extroverts. They are great in groups, large rooms and often have no problem building rapport with anyone. Extroverts are anti-boring and great at pulling out the best from people, be it conversation, energy and confidence as well as more likely to have lots of interesting adventures, fun activities and socialising in their calendars which gives them lots to talk about. Extroverts also tend to be happier with research that found that extroverts tend to be more optimistic, cheerful and better at mood regulation, which means that in a given situation someone can control their moods or emotional responses more easily and allowing them to be social fixers.
Famous extroverts include politicians like Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and sports personalities like Muhammed Ali.
Introverts are typically perceived as being more reserved or reflective and some popular psychologists have characterised introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. Introverts often take pleasure in solitary activities like reading, writing, or meditating and is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people. Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, with introversion defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating external environment. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate and are more analytical before speaking. Mistaking introversion for shyness is a common error as introversion is a preference, while shyness stems from distress. While introverts prefer solitary to social activities, they do not necessarily fear social encounters like shy people do.
Studies have found that introverts are humbler than extroverts, an incredibly important and hard to learn trait which makes them more perceptive, more open and less bogged down by ego making them wonderful leaders, managers and friends. Why, because they are wonderful observers who can pick up on social nuances, hidden emotions and team dynamics better than anyone. When they speak, people listen and take their words seriously because they tend to think carefully before speaking and use words carefully. Introverts also make some of the best employees because they are incredible listeners, great at asking the right questions and think before they speak and are very observant so often give the best input.
Some of the most talented people in history have been introverts from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to the greatest genius of the 20th century, Albert Einstein. Other super successful introverts include J.K Rowling, Bill Gates and Mahatma Gandhi
While most people view being introverted or extraverted as mutually exclusive, it is actually part of a single, continuous dimension of personality, with some scoring near one end, and others near the halfway mark. Ambiverts falls more or less directly in the middle. Ambivert are moderately comfortable with groups and social interaction, but also relish time alone, away from a crowd. In simpler words, an ambivert is a person whose behaviour changes according to the situation they are in. In the face of authority or in the presence of strangers, the person may be introverted. However, in the presence of family or close friends, the person may be highly energetic or extroverted.
It is commonly accepted that extroverts excel in jobs that require interaction with people, the best in sales, in leading people and being successful at work, but this fallacy was turned in its head during an analysis by Adam Grant, an associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who analysed 35 separate studies and found the statistical relationship between extroversion and income was basically zero. He conducted a personality survey and collected three-month sales records for more than 300 salespeople, both male and female. The people who ranked right in the middle for extroversion and introversion–ambiverts–turned out to be the best salespeople. Grant theorised that ambiverts seem to strike a balance between the two more extreme personality traits theorising that the ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited.
There is nothing wrong in being an introvert, extrovert or an ambivert. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses and knowing what personality type you are (and most people know this by the time they get to their teens or latest by their early twenties) will help you amplify your strengths and help you overcome weaknesses.
If you want to know where on the spectrum you lie, here’s a short, ten question quiz from TED to help you find out.
And here are some TED videos about these personality traits. Watch and learn more…