We sometimes get e-mails from people wondering whether “ambivert” is a new, modern term for those who seem to be somewhere in the middle between Introversion and Extraversion. Is it possible to have an Introverted personality one day and an Extraverted one the next day? Can you draw your energy from both sources?
First of all, let us discuss the term itself. It does not come up in Carl Jung’s (who popularized these terms) writings, even though he did mention that it is rare to see someone fall on one of the extreme sides of the Introversion-Extraversion spectrum. After all, probably no one is going to be 100% Architect or 100% Entertainer – extremely high scores across all traits are rare. If this is the case, then should we call those who score in the middle of Introversion-Extraversion spectrum ambiverts?
We are not big fans of this term as we see it as an oversimplification of one of the personality traits. As the distinction between Introverts and Extroverts is often seen as the most obvious one, people naturally ask what happens if you are in the middle. For instance, when you are asked whether you would rather go to a party than read a book, you might counter by saying “depends on the party and the book”. This is a perfectly reasonable response – even the most withdrawn Introvert might choose to go to a party with 2-3 close friends as opposed to reading a boring book. Likewise, even the most Extraverted and dedicated party-goer might want to take some time off and check out the latest fad in the book world. Does this mean that they are ambiverts? Probably not.
The problem with this approach is that you could technically argue that all other personality traits could be ambi- as well. What about an Intuitive who has learned to keep their flights of imagination in check? Or a Thinking person who is more empathic than average? Or a Prospector who has learned to never miss a deadline in the corporate environment?
We are all naturally good at some things and not so much at others, but we can learn to cope (or leverage other strengths instead). For instance, a stereotypical Advocate could be very quiet in an unfamiliar social setting, but popular among colleagues or highly outspoken in an event that focuses on one of their passions. Someone with the Architect personality type can feel incredibly awkward at a party full of strangers, but also be devastating orators when they know the topic well. A 50-year-old Introvert is likely to be more social and well-rounded than a 17-year-old Introvert. A usually chatty Campaigner may be really quiet in a situation where they feel that their principles are likely to be challenged. And so on, and so on.
We believe each person belongs to one side or another, continuously working on their weaknesses and balancing both sides of their personality as they grow and mature. Just because you are an Introvert and get exhausted by extensive socializing, it does not mean that you cannot be brilliant at it in different circumstances. Likewise, belonging to an Extraverted personality type does not stop you from figuring out when it is better to stay quiet and introspect. These skills do not make such people ambiverts – it makes them socially adept Introverts or introspective Extraverts.