By Jo Upcraft
If you’re neither an introvert or an extrovert you could be an ambivert waiting to be discovered — lucky you!
The past year has undoubtedly taught us a few things about ourselves that we may not have previously realised. You enjoy walking around the same place often, or you don’t. You can confidently make soda bread, or you can’t. You are an introvert or an extrovert …or an ambivert.
An ambi-what? We know that many personality traits exist. Theories have suggested many numbers of them, from Gordon Allport’s list of 4,000 personality traits, to Raymond Cattell’s 16 personality factors, and Hans Eysenck’s three-trait theory. More recently, the “Big 5” personality traits have been referred to as the essential characteristics we need comprising conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and good old extroversion (use the acronym CANOE if you need help remembering!).
Extrovert versus introvert
Extrovertion — or being an extrovert — is one of the “Big 5” personality traits stereotypically depicted by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and emotional expressiveness. Extroverts tend to be outgoing; they love social situations which make them feel energised. Comparatively, those who are low in extroversion are traditionally known as introverts. These types tend to be more reserved and draw energy from quiet reflection. Social events can feel too much, and rather than feeling excited by being around others, introverts often need solitude and quiet to recharge. It’s fair to say that extroverts have struggled a lot more with lockdown rules than their counterparts.
Signs you might be an ambivert
Covid-19 has certainly raised awareness as to whether we possess introverted or extroverted personality traits, but if you don’t feel like either of the descriptions represent you, you could be an ambivert. Landing neatly between two, ambiverts are in the middle and can lean more toward extroverted or introverted behavior depending on the situation. Here are a few qualities that indicate you could be one of them:
1. You listen and communicate
Extroverts are big talkers, whereas introverts like to observe and stay in the background. Ambiverts know when to speak up and when to pipe down, allowing others to take centre stage.
2. You display understanding and empathy
Ambiverts like to show that they know where a person is coming from. If a situation arises, an extrovert focuses on finding a solution fast, and an introvert would assist by providing a listening ear. However, an ambivert would ask thoughtful questions before offering advice.
3. You know how to read a room
You’re aware of your surroundings and your audience and you adjust to fit. For example, say you’re on a Zoom meeting waiting for it to start. An extrovert might make small talk, but an introvert would put themselves on mute. Ambiverts choose either, depending on the mood and behaviour of the colleagues.
4. You have a good sense of when to trust
A personality trait of extroverts is that they share information about themselves quickly, becoming friendly from the get-go. Introverts keep a distance between themselves and others until they get to know them. Ambiverts can sense when they need to listen or take control depending on the situation.
5. You’re super flexible
When out with a group, an introvert would feel awkward leading a conversation; an extrovert would happily take over a conversation; but the ambivert would make others feel included and would fill in awkward silences.
5. You like hanging out, you like staying in
Extroverts thrive in social situations while introverts generally prefer to stay in. If an ambivert is asked to go to a party at the last minute, they would likely consider the prospect before giving an answer which could go either way. It’s key to note that ambiverts are not immune to ‘introvert burnout’; they need a day of rest.
Given the list above, it’s fair to say that ambiverts can come across as a little bit chameleon, a little bit contradictory. While their personality may offer them the beauty of adaptability, they can find it difficult to know which to lead with in certain instances. Because of this, ambiverts can find themselves demotivated, not realising they need to change their approach to a situation to feel more motivated.
Ultimately, our personality traits determine how we interact with and react to the world around us. Taking time to understand them and remaining authentic to yourself can be helpful in managing our work life, improving personal relationships, surviving pandemics, and getting through whatever else is thrown at us.
To find out more about being an ambivert we recommend taking this personality test by psychologist Adam Grant.
This feature was originally written by Jo Upcraft and published on The Soothe, a digital wellness platform for holistic wellness in Singapore and beyond.
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