If someone asked you to describe an extrovert and an introvert, there are likely two distinct images that come to mind: the person who is always the center of attention at a party and the person who is always the first to leave the party. But if you’ve never felt like either of those *really* characterize who you are in social situations, there is a third option: You might be an ambivert.
While not as well known as the concepts of extroversion and introversion, ambiversion describes a personality that falls between the two. Think of personality as a spectrum with extrovert on one end, introvert on the other, and ambivert in the middle.
“An ambivert is someone who displays characteristics of both an extrovert and an introvert,” explains Ronald Riggio, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Claremont McKenna College. “An ambivert can behave in an outgoing, sociable manner when the situation calls for it, or can be quieter and more self-reflective.”
This means that if you wanted to revisit the metaphorical party mentioned early, an introvert will probably be ready to leave after about an hour, an ambivert would be good for a couple of hours, and an extrovert will be there until the very end, explains Michael Alcée, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Therapeutic Improvisation: How to Stop Winging It and Own It as a Therapist.
If all this is starting to make sense (and even sound suspiciously familiar), you’re not alone. Here’s everything you need to know about being an ambivert, including signs that you just might be one yourself.
What is an ambivert?
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist responsible for the concepts of “extrovert” and “introvert” didn’t coin the term “ambivert,” but he did believe that no one is 100-percent extroverted or introverted.
For their part, ambiverts are always sort of balancing being around others in social situations and spending time with themselves in quieter activities, according to Alcée. But these two different sides lend themselves to a lot of strengths.
“Ambiverts are able to get out there, take some risks, and do innovative things, but they are also really perceptive and emotionally intelligent enough to read the room,” says Alcée. Basically (cue Hannah Montana voice), you’ve got the best of both worlds.
There is some disagreement about the percentage of people who are actually true ambiverts, with some estimates as low as 20 percent, according to Riggio. But, he says, if you look at extroversion-introversion as a continuum, “then there are a lot of people who fall in the middle.” Those in the middle have been given many names in addition to ambivert over the years, including outgoing introverts, antisocial extroverts, and social introverts.
How does ambiversion work in your brain?
Biologically, part of what helps shape someone’s personality is the way their brain reacts to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that fires off during moments associated with pleasure and reward. Extroverts tend to have much more active dopamine systems compared to ambiverts and introverts, which “ultimately gives them more reasons to be excited and engaged with the world,” according to researchers at Cornell. On the flip side, an introvert is more sensitive to dopamine, so they need less of it before becoming overwhelmed.
Turns out, the quality of your sleep may have an impact on your personality:
For ambiverts, it’s all about finding the right mix of the two. Alcée explains that he likes to think of ambiversion as a hybrid car, where an extrovert is gas power and an introvert is electric power, and ambiverts need to be both fully charged and fully fueled in order to perform at their best.
“There’s nothing bad about having a gas-powered car or an electric car, but you have to know what you’re working with,” says Alcée. “The funny thing about an ambivert is that you can put all sorts of gas in it, that’s great, but if you’re not charging it up, that car’s not really going to be working right.”
What are some signs you might be an ambivert?
Your perfect evening could be either dinner with friends or reading a book by yourself. Ambiverts are “good in social interactions, but also value [their] alone time,” says Riggio.
You feel like you “crash” quickly, but aren’t sure why. Alcée explains that people who are ambiverts but think of themselves more as extroverts or introverts might keep trying to replenish their energy from the same source. But really, when an ambivert is experiencing too much of their introvert or extrovert side, it’s the imbalance that causes them to feel depleted.
You’re not the life of the party, but you’re also not a wallflower. Riggio describes this as being more “mellow” in social situations.
You’re a great salesperson. In a 2013 study, Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania wrote of what he called “the ambivert advantage” when it comes to sales positions. While it had been assumed that extroverts were the ones who shine in client meetings, Grant wrote that ambiverts are able to pitch to customers and listen to their needs, which makes them stars when it comes to sales.
Your friends aren’t sure if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Sometimes, the very fact that people can’t really tell if you’re one or the other could mean you fall in the middle, says Riggio. Additionally, because of their extroverted side, people often think ambiverts are fully extroverts, Alcée adds, leaving friends confused when an ambivert needs to take a break with their quieter side.
You aren’t bothered by noisy crowds, but also don’t feel restless when you’re by yourself. This balance between extroversion and introversion also helps to make ambiverts more emotionally stable, says Riggio.
You feel like you have good social skills. This also translates into ambiverts being more effective in social interactions than non-ambiverts, Riggio adds.
You enjoy deep conversations—to a point. An ambivert loves to get into it with small and large groups, but they will hit a wall where they need to pivot to a quieter and less stimulating activity, says Alcée.
You’re perceptive. Alcée describes ambiverts as being able to pick up on what other people are going through and then respond to their situations from both an intellectual and emotional level.
You don’t really relate to being an extrovert or an introvert. If neither calling yourself an introvert nor an extrovert feels quite right, then ambiversion might be the Goldilocks option you were looking for all along.
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