By Andrea Mau
Web Content Assistant Manager
You have probably at least once in your life identified yourself as either an “extrovert” or an “introvert.” These personality trait terms, often incorporated into personality quizzes, are popular in both professional and academic environments to identify work and social styles.
Identifying these traits supposedly helps one find their role in social circles and capitalize on preferred communication skills. For example, a prescribed extrovert might be a better speaker at a large business meeting, while an introvert may be a better option for a power lunch.
What you probably did not know is who actually created those terms, and how his theory’s original intent has been lost after many adaptions of the concept. It is these adaptions, such as the Myers-Briggs and Big Five test, that have evolved the terms into their current mainstream meanings.
“Extroversion” and “introversion” were originally coined by Carl Jung in 1920. Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded many of the concepts used in personality studies today and is considered the father of analytical psychology.
Jung describes extroverts as people who draw energy from outside themselves, like from relationships and the environment. Introverts are people who draw energy from within, like through reflection and independence.
However, what is often left out is the third category, “ambiversion.” Jung describes ambiverts as people who have both extrovert and introvert traits. Jung concedes that the majority of people are this type in his book “Psychological Types.”
Jung states that ambiverts are “the most numerous and includes the less differentiated normal man.” This assumes extroverts and introverts are actually the minority of personality types.
So, you are probably an ambivert. But that isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s actually a very good thing.
To put oneself entirely on one end of a scale is limiting. The label of extrovert or introvert disables our identities from growing outside the confines of its definition. In truth, people’s personalities are formed by the choices of each unique individual. People are fluid and can borrow from opposite sides of a spectrum in order to gain an advantage in different situations.
While the majority of people might find the concept of “extroversion” and “introversion” more exciting, it is actually much better to be an ambivert who is flexible enough to have various opportunities.
In a study by Adam M. Grant, ambiverts are proven to be better in sales positions in comparison to their extrovert counterparts. This is due to the dynamic skill set of the ambivert, who can tailor themselves to fit multiple customers likes and dispositions.
If you’ve ever taken a personality test and struggled to answer a question because you could see yourself choosing either answer depending on the circumstance, you are likely an ambivert. One can test if they are an ambivert using Daniel H. Pink’s ambivert assessment.
I do not believe the concepts of extroversion and introversion should not be explored, but rather we should view them as two radicals on a spectrum that we borrow different traits from. If we consider our identities concrete, there is no possibility of reaching beyond what we think we are capable of.
Featured Image by Andie Mau