Ambiversion – Why the Middle is the Best Place to Be
We really care about introverts and extroverts. These two personality traits tell us a lot about a person’s personality, and are part of a larger framework of personality traits. We tell ourselves, that knowing if someone is an introvert or an extrovert, we have an idea of what they will be like in different social situations.
We use the introversion/extroversion scale to determine if a person is outgoing or if they like quiet time at home. Extroverts look for gratification outside of the self. They like big parties, public demonstrations, and political groups, anything that will allow them to engage with a large number of people. They are typically described as enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious.
Introverts on the other hand look for gratification internally, especially around mental activities. They prefer solitary activities, such as writing, computers, video games, hiking, fishing, and reading. They enjoy spending time with a small number of close friends. People labeled as introverts are often also labeled as being shy, quiet, nervous, and lacking self-confidence. Introverts however, are not necessarily any of those things; they just do not gain any sense of satisfaction from interaction with large groups that extroverts do.
When people exhibit traits from both groups, they are the ambiverts. Ambiversion displays personality traits of both introversion and extroversion, and falls directly in the middle of extroversion and introversion. They are enthusiastic, and enjoy going out to parties, but also enjoy spending time at home reading or in quiet reflection.
Some people, however, reject the idea of a personality trait that lies in the middle of these scales. For them, these scales exist to define people, and you cannot exist outside of those parameters. Being defined as an extrovert means you should work on your shortcomings and be a better extrovert.
This is where I have to disagree. I feel that the personality tests are sadly lacking in context. The problem with the question “would you rather spend the night partying, or at home reading a book?” is that it doesn’t add context; what kind of party, what’s the book, what night is it, how do I feel, who’s will be there, and everything else. A lot of personality tests are HIGHLY impacted by the mood of a person when they are taking the test.
The other point that I have an issue with is the idea of having to overcome your weaknesses. I strongly disagree with this. Overcoming a weakness, unless it’s a critical weakness, is not going to help you that much. We learn something different, but it’s true.
The truth is correcting your “weaknesses” to make you a better extrovert or introvert is only going to make you frustrated. You should instead focus more on your strengths (a great resource to find out more about focusing on your strengths is StrengthsFinder 2.0StrengthFinders 2.0 by Tom Rath. He goes into a lot of detail on why to focus on your strengths, and includes an access key to a Gallup poll that will allow you to find out what your strengths are). By focusing on your strengths you improve what you are already good at, and you help yourself stand out and be recognized for being a leader in your skill set.
I’m a great salesman. However, people have remarked to me that I demonstrate the traits of both a strong extrovert and introvert. I like and enjoy small intimate gatherings as much as I do large parties. I can also be at home in the middle of a huge crowd at a festival talking to and meeting new people as I can on a solitary hike or at home reading a good book. In fact tonight, I’m will be taking the bus to a large networking event so I can put on my headphones and read a new leadership book. I strongly exhibit traits of both groups, and that is what makes me so strong and versatile as a sales person. I take the time to research my potential market and new clients, and then network aggressively to get achieve my goals.
Do not be afraid to resist being put into a box or a corner if it’s not the right fit. Break out of the old mold and be true to yourself. Focus on what makes you strong and happy and do not be ashamed of that. That is the first step towards success.
Wishing you the very best,