We’ve all been told that we are either introvert or an extrovert, quiet bookworm or party animal. But if you can be both, you may be an Ambivert.
A friend of mine is very introverted; he doesn’t like to make a fuss, hates the spotlight, prefers a quiet evening in to any activity that involves horsing around and making noise. Another chap I know is usually the first person to dance on the table before last orders have been called. Even I sometimes find him irritating.
When I first came across Oregon-based behavioural expert Vanessa Van Edwards’ paper on this, it struck a chord with me immediately, mainly because most of the time I am introverted but can turn my extrovert side on and off at will, whenever the circumstances demand. When I’m on stage doing hypnosis shows I’m a big show-off. But at home, I’m quiet, don’t go out much, and avoid crowded noisy places. I avoid ‘impromptu performances’ like the plague and hate being recognised in airports (OK, that only happened once, but unlike most show business types, I found it very much not to my liking.)
Psychologists now believe that around two-thirds of people are ambiverts, a personality category that has, until now, been given disgracefully little attention, although psychologist Hans Eysenck first postulated the theory in the 1940’s. Professor Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania has also published a paper on the subject in the journal Psychological Science in 2013.
Ambiverts are great at getting other people to trust them. I’m a hypnotist – a good one actually, even though I say so myself, and I do this all the time. I engage in flexible patterns of talking and listening, and like all ambiverts (remember, two thirds of the population are ambiverts) I am sufficiently well versed in the arts of persuasion to be able to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade.
Both introverts and extroverts can become energised and animated whilst talking to other people. It’s a different story though when the energy is coming the other way. The extrovert will enjoy the energy of other whilst the introvert will need a break before very long. Professor Grant observes that successful ambiverts will avoid giving the hard-sell – they can get their own way by pushing less rather than more. In general ambiverts have a natural ability to ‘play it down the middle.’
However, ambiverts feel intense pressure to mirror the person there are with, copying body language, speech patterns and other behaviour. [I don’t – this is something taught in NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, to give it its full and overblown title, and I find it extremely irritating when others try it on me.] The temptation ambiverts feel to ‘mirror’ other’s behaviour however can be irresistible.
So, when ambiverts are with extroverts, they are more likely to feel like rising to the occasion, yet at the same time avoid appearing too excited or overconfident. They can also get along with most personality types, brash or timid. Ambiverts have a wider range of social and behavioural skills and can connect with a wide range of people. They can slide up and down the emotional spectrum depending on the situation, context and people around them.
One defining characteristic is that ambiverts can often be less decisive on what to do in certain situations – they prefer to read and consider situations carefully.
It seems the real advantage to being an ambivert is the ability to adapt and adopt the middle ground, and to everyone’s liking.
That’s a good place to be!