Most people don’t like being put in metaphorical boxes. Labels have their place, but they are often oversimplified and lack nuance, especially when referring to aspects of a person’s personality. Introverted and extroverted labels have exploded in popularity thanks to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test and Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking. But what if you don’t resonate with either term? What if you don’t feel completely extroverted or introverted?
One theory is that instead of being binary, extroversion and introversion are on a scale. As with other concepts such as sexuality, health and spiciness of food, there are multiple pointers on the scale and ambivert encompasses everything in between. While you may be inclined to either side or have a natural aptitude, it’s definitely not black and white.
If you don’t feel like being an extrovert or an introvert, here are 7 signs you might be an ambivert.
A superficial comparison of extroverts and introverts might say that extroverts love crowds and crowded places, while introverts prefer dark corners and curled up at home with a book. One is sociable, friendly and outgoing, the other prefers their inner thoughts and ideas.
Ambiverts enjoy both scenarios and happily switch between the two. A room full of people or a shelf full of books can inspire just as much joy. Within you there is a healthy balance between extroverted and introverted indicators, and what you emulate can vary at any given time.
2. People can drain you as well as energize you
Think of extroversion and introversion in terms of how someone gets energized. While an extrovert gets energy from people, an introvert is slowly drained by people and needs time alone to recharge. But it’s not that simple and the people around you play an important role.
You can be activated by some and drained by others. You might love hanging out or hate it, depending on how you’re feeling that day, what else you’re doing, or who happens to be around. An inspiring conversation with a few like-minded people is a lot different than superficial niceties at a bachelorette party. It may depend on them, not you.
3. You can be both shy and confident
A stereotypical extrovert is always confident. With their heads held high, they run ahead with their thoughts, never avoiding a new meeting or person they haven’t met yet. Their introverted counterpart prefers to judge a situation before speaking up and may appear shy or reserved to potential new friends.
If your personality has both shy and confident sides, and both come out at different times, you may be an ambivert. Without a clear style winner, you switch between the two depending on how you feel. You might not say one comes naturally, multiple other factors are involved.
4. Your personality has evolved over time
You could be an ambivert if the reason you don’t have a solid identity of extrovert or introvert is that you are now different from who you once were. Maybe you used to be loud and showy and now you’re more subdued, or you’re happier in your own skin and speak your mind more easily.
Do you find yourself or do you lose yourself? Change signals one or the other. So far, if your circumstances have dictated how you appear, you may not fit either label. Ambiverts can bend over the course of a day or a lifetime.
5. You are different things to different people
Maybe your mom thinks you’re an introvert and your best friend thinks you’re an extrovert. Who is right? You exist as a different person in the minds of everyone you meet. If other people label you differently, how do you know who the real you is?
This can be a clear sign of your ambivert truth. If the people you know see you as both, because you play different roles in different scenarios or because you’re not consistent with your approach, you’re not on either end of the spectrum. You’re happy to be somewhere in the middle and you’re not looking for a definitive judgement.
6. You can empathize with both types
In a group of people each vying for attention, you’re happy to sit back and let them have their way. For an event where no one seems to want to take charge, voice your opinion and communicate your plan. You can empathize with others, meet them where they are and adjust your approach. Extraversion and introversion are tools in your toolbox and you use them as you see fit.
Ambivert entrepreneurs have a huge advantage. They can be chameleon-like in their behavior, making those around them feel comfortable. The extroverts know you listen and don’t interrupt, the introverts know you don’t let them down. Your ambivert presence brings security to both.
7. You are different at work and at home
You may not have a choice to be extroverted at work. If your role requires an outgoing personality, a social approach and the ability to express your intentions and lead a group, you would be happy to adopt that professional persona. If you become a different person when the uniform is off, it indicates that you can adapt to a situation.
The other way around is also true. Your social calendar may be packed, you’re always on the phone, and you’d never consider living alone, but at work, you zoom in and focus for hours on end. You even forget that people exist as you go deep into focused work. If you tick a different box at home and at work, you could be an ambivert.
Labels are useful when they lead to insight and action, not when they are used to oversimplify and miss the real story. Rarely does a label fully describe something as complex as a human being. If you never liked having to choose between extrovert and introvert because you know there’s more to it, start calling yourself an ambivert and keep everyone on their toes.