Recent research by psychologist Adam Grant (and others) has focused on those individuals who are neither strongly extraverted, nor strongly introverted—what has been termed “ambiverts.” Whereas extraverts enjoy being with and interacting with others, and introverts enjoy solitude, ambiverts are characterized as being ambivalent about social situations—sometimes enjoying the company of others, but also enjoying being alone at times.
These results aren’t too surprising if we consider that extraversion-introversion is a continuum, and, if we assume that this personality trait is normally distributed (remember the bell curve). That means that about two-thirds of people are in the middle, and can be classified as ambiverts. This likely solves that age-old problem of why when people take a personality test and are classified as either an introvert or an extravert, they often feel like “I’m not really one or the other.”
In his research, Grant found, not too surprisingly, that ambiverts, not extraverts, tended to make the best salespeople. Grant attributes the ambiverts’ sales success with a combination of talking and listening (extraverts do too much talking, introverts, too little).
Our own research examining personality and leadership found that it wasn’t extraversion or introversion that led to leader success, but good leadership was related more to having good social skills. Extraverts, introverts, and ambiverts who are interpersonally skilled make better leaders (although research shows that extraverts have an advantage when it comes to attaining leadership positions—likely due to all the talking).
How can you determine if you are an ambivert?
If you like the company of others, but not too much, then you are likely an ambivert. If you can socialize and make small talk, but get bored by too much of it, that suggests ambiversion. If you are sometimes talkative, and other times not, you are likely an ambivert.
The lesson from all of this is to not put too much stock into personality types. It is good to learn more about ourselves, but not to let the labeling of a certain type restrict our ambitions or our success.
Grant, A.M. (2013). Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage
Psychological Science, 24(6), 1024-1030.
Guerin, D.W., Oliver, P.H., Gottfried, A.W., Gottfried, A.E., Reichard, R.J., & Riggio, R.E. (2011). Childhood and adolescent antecedents of social skills and leadership potential in adulthood: Temperamental approach/withdrawal and extraversion. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(3), 482-494.