Your personality traits determine how you interact with and react to the world around you. Knowing more about them can help you learn where you feel most comfortable, both socially and professionally.
The idea of introversion and extroversion first came from Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in the early 1900s. He believed some people were energized by the external world (extroverts) and others were energized by the internal world (introverts).
An extrovert is someone who draws energy from being around people. They like to be out and about, attending social events and engaging with others. An extrovert may be called a “people person.”
An introvert is someone who draws energy from quiet reflection. They’re happy spending time alone or with one or two people they feel close to. Often, they need some “alone time” to recharge after being in a group social setting.
Introverts are sometimes accused of being shy or antisocial, but those aren’t actually introvert traits. Someone who identifies as an introvert may enjoy people, but prefer to interact in small doses. And they’re generally not fans of small talk, preferring deeper and more meaningful conversations.
Neuroscientists believe that extroverts might respond more positively than introverts to outside stimulation because their brains release more dopamine (the chemical in your brain that causes feelings of reward and pleasure) during these situations.
These personality types are considered to be on a spectrum. That means someone rarely fits completely on one side or the other but falls somewhere in between. You could be closer to the extrovert side or closer to the introvert side.
If you don’t feel like either of these descriptions quite fit, you could be an ambivert.
Ambiverts are in the middle. They may lean more toward extroverted or introverted behavior depending on the situation.
Signs you might be an ambivert
Here are five signs you might be an ambivert.
1. You’re a good listener and communicator
Extroverts prefer to talk more, and introverts like to observe and listen. But ambiverts know when to speak up and when to listen.
An ambivert might open a meeting by giving a brief pep talk, then offer employees the chance to talk about their own challenges or concerns.
2. You have an ability to regulate behavior
Adjusting to fit the person or situation seems to come naturally to ambiverts.
Imagine you’re riding in an elevator with strangers. An extrovert might start making small talk, but an introvert might put in earbuds to avoid interaction. You might choose either option, depending on your fellow riders.
3. You feel comfortable in social settings, but also value your alone time
Ambiverts can feel like they’re in their element in a crowd or when enjoying a quiet evening at home.
Say a friend calls with a last-minute invite for an evening out. An extrovert will likely accept without hesitation, and an introvert is likely to decline in favor of staying in. The ambivert will probably consider the pros and cons of that particular outing. They could go either way.
4. Empathy comes naturally to you
Ambiverts are able to listen and show they understand where a person is coming from.
If a friend’s having an issue, an extrovert might try to offer a solution right away, and an introvert might be great at listening. An ambivert might listen and ask thoughtful questions to try and help.
5. You’re able to provide balance
In the case of group settings, ambiverts can provide a much-needed balance to the social dynamic.
An ambivert might be the one to help break an awkward silence, making others who are more introverted feel comfortable starting a conversation.
Benefits of being an ambivert
Since ambiverts live in the middle, they have a unique ability to take advantage of traits on both ends of the spectrum. They might even have an easier time compromising when it comes to interactions because they can feel comfortable in a variety of different settings.
An ambivert can learn how to master the positive aspects of both personality types. For example, you could be the life of the party, telling interesting stories and engaging an audience, but you can also listen carefully and gain someone’s trust.
As a result, ambiverts might be able to develop more deep bonds. The extroverted traits may lead to meeting an interacting with more people, while the introverted traits can help nurture close friendships.
Both extroverts and introverts can make good bosses, but it often depends on the context and the people they’re leading. In the same way that leaders have different management styles, employees respond differently to management style based on their personality traits.
A study published in the Harvard Business Review examined a U.S. pizza delivery chain with 57 stores to see if having an extrovert or an introvert as a leader lead to higher profits. Researchers rated each store leader on the introvert/extrovert spectrum based on traits they displayed.
They found that extroverted leaders had higher profits when they led employees who were passive, meaning the workers preferred more direction and instruction. But they had lower profits when the employees were proactive, meaning the workers preferred to take on more responsibility themselves.
The proactive workers would likely benefit more from an introverted leader. That’s because introverts have the ability to listen and help recognize the strengths in others.
When it comes to managing teams, ambiverts may have an ultimate advantage. They can choose to display more extrovert or introvert qualities based on the needs of their employees. Ambiverts feel comfortable taking center stage if needed, but they also know when to step back and listen.
Disadvantages of being an ambivert
Ambiverts are considered to be more flexible because they can move between introversion and extroversion. Depending on the situation, this might place extra strain on the ambivert. Keeping the balance may be a good quality to have, but it can also be tiring.
An ambivert may also find themselves in a position of keeping the peace in a social or work setting. People closer to the introvert or extrovert side of the personality spectrum might have trouble understanding where the other side comes from, looking to an ambivert to bridge the gap.
Careers where ambiverts thrive
In general, ambiverts are likely to thrive in careers that involve a balance of collaboration and time spent working independently. That’s because it allows them to use both introvert and extrovert traits. An ambivert might excel in these careers:
Sales people have to be persuasive, while also considering a customer’s needs. Ambiverts have a natural ability to switch between talking and listening.
A study in the journal Psychological Science found that ambiverts are likely to sell more than introverts or extroverts.
Project managers take ownership of a project and provide guidance to the team working on it. They need to be able to both give directions and listen to the people on their team.
Producers work behind the scenes in radio, television, online media, and film to make sure the project gets organized and stays on track. The position involves collaborating with a variety of different personality types to move a project from start to finish.
Interior designers need to read their customers and offer advice based on design principles and customer preferences. They spend some time collaborating and some time alone working on presentations.
Teachers have to be flexible in order to reach students of different backgrounds and different personality types. They also need to be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd and meeting one-on-one with students and parents.
If you’re a person who feels equally fulfilled whether you’re out in a crowd or at home alone reading a book, you might be an ambivert.
Ambiverts have lots of great traits. They’re able to be flexible in a variety of situations, often knowing when to talk and when to listen. These skills can prove really valuable in different social interactions.
But no matter where you fall on the personality spectrum, taking the time to analyze the way you act and interact can be helpful in improving your personal and professional relationships.