Many of us have likely self-identified as introverts or extroverts, swearing by these labels. But in reality, these personality traits fall on a spectrum rather than introversion and extroversion being mutually exclusive. The people who tend to consistently fall toward the middle of the spectrum are called ambiverts. Here's what we know about ambivert psychology and what are considered ambivert traits.
What is an ambivert?
An ambivert is someone who has a balance of both introversion and extroversion, with the ability to lean more into one or the other depending on the context. For example, where introverts may prefer to listen while extroverts prefer to chat, an ambivert will likely have no trouble with either. They're flexible. An ambivert's propensity for introversion and extroversion can change depending on individual needs in any given moment or situation.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to come up with "introvert" and "extrovert," though he didn't give a name for those in the middle of these two personality types—that was Kimball Young in the 1920s.
"Almost all of us are ambiverts to some degree," psychotherapist Ken Page, LCSW, tells mbg. All of us are located somewhere along the spectrum between introversion and extroversion, meaning we do have access to both sets of personality traits in varying degrees and forms. Even though you'll be assigned an "E" or "I" in your Myers-Briggs personality type, for example, everyone is actually somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Signs you may be an ambivert:
Neither "introvert" nor "extrovert" feel accurate for describing your personality.
If you've always struggled to pick between these two labels, that's a good sign you might be an ambivert. Ambiverts have introvert qualities like enjoying alone time, being a good listener, and being enthralled by human's internal worlds—but they also love spending time with others, have a lot of confidence, and have great social skills like extroverts.
You need your "me time" just as much as social time.
You get energized both by being around others (like extroverts) and by spending recharging time alone (like introverts). Perhaps you enjoy them both equally, or the one you enjoy the most fluctuates depending on what's going on in your life. Personalities change all the time. Perhaps you've had phases in your life when you needed a lot of alone time and periods of time when you were all about the social gatherings and social situations. It's all good stuff to you!
You prefer a balance of both solo and group work.
Ambiverts are all about balance. They tend to see the value of both doing things on their own and doing things as a collective, and they prefer a mix of both.
Both too much alone time and too much time with others can feel draining.
Importantly, ambiversion is not the same as "anything goes." While ambiverts are flexible, they're not without needs. Often that means that lack of enough alone time or lack of enough quality time with others can feel exhausting. Again, the balance is the key.
You appreciate good conversation but also value comfortable silence.
Extroverts tend to be talkers. Introverts tend to be listeners. Ambiverts can play both roles easily. Moreover, they love a roaring conversation and being the life of the party, but they're not bothered when the conversation dies down or attention goes elsewhere.
Small talk doesn't bother you, though you also love deep conversations.
Introverts are notorious for hating small talk, aka more surface-level conversations about the weather and what you did today. They tend to prefer getting way deeper, having long and introspective conversations. Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to be chatty and love talking about everything under the sun without discrimination. Ambiverts love it all: the small talk, the big talk, the deep stuff, and the silly stuff.
You have a lot of friends and a handful of close friends.
Extroverts tend to have a whole lot of friends, whereas introverts tend to have just a handful of close friends they spend time with. Ambiverts have both: a huge extended network of friends and folks they spend time with, as well as a smaller set of close friends they're really intimate with.
Where ambiverts thrive.
"It seems that ambiverts are fantastic for sales work—there's actually data on this—because they know how to listen, but they also know how to move toward the sale and engage in that kind of way," Page notes, referencing research by organizational psychologist Adam Grant on the so-called ambivert advantage. "Teachers are a good role too because you get that interpersonal connection, but it also involves planning and reflection that takes going inside. Similarly, ambiverts make good therapists because you do a lot of listening but also interacting and talking."
In general, a career that involved some degree of group work and collaboration, along with solo work, benefits ambiverts.
Socially, ambiverts can thrive both in social settings and by themselves. It will vary greatly depending on any given day and what you're in the mood for. As such, "finding people who give space to who you are, in our friendships and intimate relationships," is very important, according to Page. "We need to be with people who are not rubbed the wrong way by our personality and offer deep nourishment to these roots of our being."
The pros and cons of ambiversion.
While it may seem like there are only upsides to ambiversion—and there are plenty—this personality can come with its own set of challenges.
Ambiverts are very flexible and adaptable to different situations and people. They're great at knowing how to interact with different personalities because they can relate to lots of different people. Their balance of extroversion and introversion makes them less likely to experience the downsides of either, like missing out on interpersonal connections (introverts) or lacking an inner connection to themselves (extroverts).
However, this flexibility can make it difficult to pinpoint what they might want or need. Ever made plans when feeling extroverted, but then the day comes and your inner introvert pokes its head out? This is a common occurrence for ambiverts, as their mood and desires can and will change. It's a gift to have this balance, Page says, but that makes it all the more important to be connected to our feelings and what actually feels good for us in the moment. "It's a matter of following our feelings in a more subtle way," he explains.
Ambiversion requires a lot of self-awareness to honor your own feelings, whether that means reaching out to others or finding solace in our thoughts. As Page explains, it's worth our while to tune into ourselves and find out what nourishes us most, regardless of where we are on the spectrum.
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.