Some people like to unwind by partying with friends, while others prefer a quiet night alone. But a third group of people tilt either way, depending on their mood.
There’s a name for these introvert-extrovert hybrids: ambiverts. And as many as two-thirds of us fall into this category, some research suggests.
Extroversion and introversion lie on a spectrum. But while we mostly hear about the extremes, experts have recently taken an interest in those in the middle, who could have an advantage in the workplace.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung popularised the concepts of extroversion and introversion in the early 1920s. Jung also identified a third group at that time, but didn’t give it a name. Psychologists didn’t start using the term “ambivert” until the 1940s.
According to psychologists, extroverts like surrounding themselves with people and being the center of attention. They often get bored or restless when left on their own. On the other hand, introverts prefer being alone, or with just one other person or a small group of people. They find being around crowds draining.
But ambiverts share traits of both extroverts and introverts, and can move effortlessly between the two categories.
“It is like they’re bilingual,” Daniel Pink, an author and host of Crowd Control, a TV series on human behaviour, told The Wall Street Journal. “They have a wider range of skills and can connect with a wider range of people in the same way someone who speaks English and Spanish can.”
If you want to know if you’re an ambivert, you can take this test, developed by Pink, who has studied ambiversion.
Not only do ambiverts exist, but they may be better at certain types of jobs, especially sales, studies suggest. For example, a 2013 study looked at 340 representatives at a call center. The researchers had the employees fill out a personality test, then kept track of their sales revenue for the next three months. Those employees who brought in the most revenue per hour scored exactly halfway between extrovert and introvert on the personality test.
Ambiverts may also be better at introverts and extroverts at understanding other people’s emotions, an ability that could make them better parents and spouses, according to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Ambiverts sometimes find it hard to know which side of their personality to follow, which can leave them feeling stuck, Grant said.
To the majority of us who fall into this middle category, Grant offered this advice: “Read each situation more carefully,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “and ask yourself, ‘What do I need to do right now to be most happy or successful?'”
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