Introvert or Extrovert? You may be neither or both.

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

The article for the rest of us who can't pick one.

There is confusion surrounding introversion/extroversion and it absolutely drives me crazy. I find myself raising the topic in conversation more than I care to admit. If more people understand these distinctions, I think we can make the world a better (and a more accepting) place.


It's likely you were introduced to this personality concept in grade school, high school, or at least when you entered into the workforce. Someone asked you: "Are you an introvert or an extrovert?" A simple question that deserves a simple answer. Perhaps you instinctively choose one or the other. Maybe you rambled on for an awkward amount of time trying to explain how neither was a perfect fit or an overlap of both options.


Your inquisitive friend stares at you blankly and finally admits: " Hey. I was mildly curious and being polite. I wasn't expecting a synapsis of your entire life. " If the latter happens often then I am about to blow your mind. First, let us properly define an introvert and extrovert.


INTROVERT AND EXTROVERT

If you look up the definition within Oxford Languages Dictionary an introvert is distinctively "a shy, reticent person"; while an extrovert is " an outgoing, overly expressive person."

I hope this cleared everything up.


Digging deeper in the Webster's Dictionary, we find a slightly more thorough definition(s):

in·​tro·​vert | \ ˈin-trə-ˌvərt \ 1: one whose personality is characterized by introversion especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone

Further still, introversion is defined as being predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life.


ex·​tro·​vert | \ ˈek-strə-ˌvərt \

variants: or less commonly extravert 1: one whose personality is characterized by extroversion broadly : a gregarious and unreserved person

Further again, the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self.


There are numerous videos on the internet that describe introversion and extroversion in more detail.




Introversion and extroversion are the extreme points on a continuous scale of categorized personality traits based on socializing tendencies and how an individual re-energizes their batteries. Individuals are distributed on this spectrum on a classic bell-curve (or standard distribution curve). This means that people tend to be clustered around the central point (the mean) with fewer and fewer being found towards the extremes. This means that the majority rarely fall on either of these extremes.


Both are so much more... and both are misunderstood. In a culture which tends to favor extroversion and has to some extent 'normalized it', it has become common to regard any tendency towards introversion as somehow aberrant. (Our media are largely to blame for this- TV is dominated by entertainment made by extroverts for extroverts. It isn't and it is an indictment of that culture that people like Susan Cain (who gave a very good TED Talk on the subject and wrote a book, 'Quiet- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking') should find it necessary to redress the balance.

It makes my heart smile to see so much information about these two categories but what about the rest of us? The majority that fall on the spectrum in the middle. Are we suppose to choose a side and be satisfied event though it doesn't feel quite right?



AMBIVERT AND OMNIVERT

What happens when you have the charisma and assertiveness of an extrovert and the active listening and thoughtfulness of an introvert? You are an ambivert.



Ambivert and omnivert are used interchangeably, although strictly speaking 'ambi' and 'omni' have different meanings as a prefix ('both' and 'all' respectively). An ambivert is one who likes socializing and social situations but values his/her own equally. They will strive for calm and solitude. It is someone who falls in the middle of the introvert/extrovert continuum. They have a blend as well as their own unique traits. An omivert is someone who displays classic traits of both and can be a very quiet, reserved person and a loud, outgoing person depending on the situation. They thrive in more stimulating environments.


You like attention but it depends on the context.

You enjoy being in a crowd, party or group for hours.

You prefer meaningful conversations.

There are limits to your social comfort zone.

You are very reserved in some situations.

You like to have a few friends in the mix.

You are not likely to introduce yourself to a stranger, but you enjoy meeting new people.

You don't fit either label but you kinda fit both.

You are a people watcher at events.

You enjoy hearing other's opinions and then contributing your own.

You tend to "balance out" the people around you.


The best job positions for ambiverts are sales, creative teams, mediation and negotiation, management, psychologists, and therapists. Ambiverts are HSP extroverts: highly sensitive person. It means your nervous system processes things more deeply than most people. They are highly observant, notice patterns quicker than most, pick up on subtle emotional cues, and highly creative. Bright lights and large crowds drain them because it's a lot of information to process.



" I need both the time to recharge my batteries and the activity to drain it. If my batteries are full for too long, I get anxious and snappy. If it is empty for too long, I will force detachment through dissociative behaviors: staring at nothing on my phone, or blanking off into space in the middle of a conversation, or taking long and necessary trips to the bathroom to get a moment alone." shares Chandresh Kothari, an admitted ambivert. "In short, I desperately need other people, just not all the time. I can be the life of the party... no problem. When the party is over, however, I will need two days of solitude to recharge my social reserves."


"I love being social but I crave alone time." - Chandresh Kothari, ambivert


AWARENESS

Understanding our personalities is the best and initial strategy to grow. You will get the social time you crave more appropriately if you know the triggers and signs of your needs. You will be suited to manage yourself. The majority of problems are contributed to self-inflicted pain: lack of preperation, clarity, skills, motivation, or action. when we discover ourselves on a deeper level with compassion and disconnect from the outcomes to truly see ourselves, we can begin to design our lives intentionally. Awareness is the first step towards any significant change within our lives.

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