Big personality tests, such as Myers-Briggs, are undoubtedly popular (and fun to take!). And many of us take sides when it comes to traits like introversion and extroversion, falling into one camp over the other.
But personality isn’t so cut and dry, researchers agree. Even the most introverted people can behave in an extroverted manner and vice versa, says Daniel K. Mroczek, PhD, a psychology professor at Northwestern University who studies personality. “We all show the full range of behavior over the course of time.”
Even more? Most of us actually fall more in the middle of the personality spectrum than we think. Some people are very introverted, while others are incredibly extroverted. And the rest? “There are many people in the middle, who are not either strongly extroverted nor strongly introverted,” says Ronald E. Riggio, PhD, an organizational psychologist and professor at Claremont McKenna College.
You’ve likely heard of the terms ‘extroverted introverts’ or ‘introverted extroverts’-but Riggio says some psychologists actually use the term ‘ambivert’ for people who share traits of extroversion and introversion. So what are ambiverts and how can you tell if you are one? Allow personality researchers to explain.
What is an ambivert, exactly?
Ambiverts tend to have traits of both extroverts and introverts, says Riggio. Extroverts are usually talkative, assertive, excited, gregarious, social, and get energy from being with people. Introverts are usually the opposite: quiet, unassertive, not particularly excitable, and more solitary. Being in social situations is more draining for introverts.
“If most of your behaviors over the course of, say, a typical month are more on the socially gregarious side, your density distribution indicates you fall more on the extrovert side,” says Mroczek. “If most of your behaviors are shy or reserved, then you fall more on the introverted side of the continuum.”
However, ambiverts tend to be less extreme in any given characteristic, explains Simine Vazire, PhD, director of the Personality and Self-Knowledge Lab at UC Davis. “They have more of a blend of introverted and extroverted characteristics.”
That’s why there is no single way to define an ambivert. You might, for example, be somewhat (but not *super*) talkative with middle-of-the-road assertiveness or you might be really assertive, but not especially sociable or excited, she explains.
“People in the middle are moderately enthused by interacting with others, and moderately ‘drained’ by it,” adds Riggio. “Those on the extremes will shun or be drained from social situations or be attracted to and energized by socializing.”
How to find out if you’re an ambivert
First, to rule out being far more introverted or extroverted, Riggio suggests asking yourself questions such as:
Would you rather stay home and read a book (introversion) or go out and meet new people (extroversion)?
Do you enjoy lively, crowded parties (extroversion) or small gatherings with close friends (introversion)?
Do you regularly talk to strangers (extroversion) or mostly keep to yourself when around strangers (introversion)?
Then, if you want some official results, consider a test. “There are many good, free online tests to get a sense of your level of extroversion and introversion,” says Vazire. She suggests The Big Five Project and The SAPA-Project Personality Test.
You could also ask a few people close to you, who know you in a wide range of situations, to judge your personality by either taking one of the tests about you or simply suggesting where they think you fall, says John Anthony Johnson, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University. “The average judgment from people who are well-acquainted with the person tends to cancel out biases and is more objective.”
But remember to think about your own behavior over time. “A single behavior can be quite unrepresentative,” says Mroczek. “If you observe somebody over many situations, contexts, and over many days or weeks, their personality emerges before your eyes when you track their behaviors over time.”
More generally? Simply take a good guess about whether you’re more introverted, extroverted, or more in the middle, suggests Vazire. “There’s a pretty good chance you’ll be accurate and your scores on scientifically validated tests will come pretty close to your guess.”
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