In a world of extroverts and introverts, there is a group that often goes underlooked: ambiverts. These are the people in the middle of the introvert-extrovert continuum. They can act like both introverts and extroverts at certain times. They are people who are energized both by quiet respite and by a party. Navigating the world as an ambivert may seem extremely advantageous- who wouldn’t want to be comfortable in both solitude and company? As an ambivert, Sara (one of the co-authors of this article) can tell you that it is not all it’s chalked up to be. She is not alone. Of the +300 C-Suite execs we have interviewed, about 1/3 are natural ambiverts.
Wharton’s Adam Grant found that because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are among the best sales people. Adam’s research highlights one of the greatest advantages of being an ambivert: they can go from exhibiting the strengths of an introvert to the strengths of an extrovert at the appropriate time (see Psychological Science, 24(6), 2013, Rethinking the Extroverted Sales Ideal, p. 1024-1030). This is a spectacular strength, but there is a downside.
One of the biggest traps ambiverts fall into is assuming they cannot experience burnout. In fact, if they aren’t careful, ambiverts burn out twice as quickly. The key to leading a healthy life is balance, and this area is no exception. The downsides of too much socialization include crabbiness, stress, and strained relationships. On the flip side, spending too much time alone can lead to feeling isolated, demotivated, and lonely. Too much of one can have serious ramifications in both personal and professional life. It’s really easy to keep feeding either the extroverted or introverted side while ignoring the other. There have been many times where Sara has been surprised by the sense of relief she felt after a quick 10-minute conversation, but she experiences the same relief when walking into her silent house after a party.
Based on interviews with over 50 ambiverts, we have found that introverts and extroverts have clear strengths, and ambiverts have those same strengths but not quite to the same degree. For ambiverts to be comfortable public speaking they need to push themselves a little more than extroverts. For ambiverts to properly reflect before acting, they need to remind themselves to slow down. Extroverts and introverts are naturally inclined to do these things, whereas ambiverts might need to be more deliberate in their efforts.
Extroverts and introverts generally have the advantage of identification over ambiverts- extroverts know they are extroverted and introverts know they are introverted. As such, they know what types of interactions they need. Introverts are well-known for needing to take time to recharge, and extroverts can sense themselves getting antsy if they haven’t socialized in a few days. Ambiverts need to be both outgoing and independent, seemingly at random and sometimes with very little regard to what disposition would be best suited for the present moment.
So what do ambiverts need to do to be effective workers? After careful observation, here are a few tips we’ve composed to help ambiverts maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
By controlling your environment, planning ahead, and learning to just say “no,” ambiverts can respond to their needs, and start working to the best of their ability. Let us know in the comments section what you do to better manage your ambiversion!
This article was co-written with Sara Avramovic, a McGill undergraduate student. Karl Moore, Ph.D. is associate professor at McGill University and an associate fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford University.