I’m a big fan of personality tests. My favorite is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You know the one that gives you a result with four letters? Yeah, that one.
Inevitably, when I take one of the Myers-Briggs online tests, I come out about fifty/fifty on the introvert/extrovert scale. Sometimes I tip slightly over to E (51-52%) and other times I flip over to the same percentage for I. So which am I? The one I started out with as a child (definitely I) or the one I worked so hard to change into as a young adult (E)? Which am I? So I turn, as usual, to the internet for answers.
First, let’s define our terms. Strong qualities of an extrovert include: action oriented, importance placed on breadth of knowledge and influence, enjoys frequent interaction with people, recharges from spending time with people, “fades” when alone, thinks as they speak and prefers thinking out ideas through speech instead of in own head, enjoys large social gatherings. Strong qualities of an introvert include: thought oriented, importance placed on depth of knowledge and influence, enjoys substantial interaction with people, recharges from spending time alone, often prefers solitary activities (not necessarily because of shyness or social awkwardness), more likely to think before speaking, may be more reserved and/or less outspoken.
Wonderful Wikipedia informs me there is a third option: ambiversion, which includes those people who fall in the middle of the extroversion-introversion spectrum. Ambiverts enjoy social interaction and groups but also value their alone time. Interestingly, Britannica informs me that most people are ambiverts. This is where, I suppose, I fall in. In a lot of ways I fit the introvert mold well, but sometimes I do enjoy groups of people and hashing out ideas with others. And the easiest way for me to recharge is neither in big groups (this doesn’t work for me at all) or alone time (this works better, but too much unfocused alone time and I will start wallowing). My favorite way to recharge is with conversation time either one-on-one or in small groups, discussing ideas, thoughts and feelings in a more intimate environment.
Is this typical for ambiverts? Here the internet fails me; most of the articles on the subject unearthed by a quick Google search don’t seem overly substantial.
And why do I even care? The internet does help me here, making these possibly wild claims:
- “Western culture seems to favor extroverts. Indeed, extroverts seem to always be having a great time! One study found a positive correlation between extroverts and happiness (extroverts appear to be happier than introverts).”
Hmm, no wonder I care! However, while the majority of Americans may be extroverts (I have no idea of the validity of this statement), I don’t buy this idea of extroverts as the ideal of personality. Both types have their pros as well as their cons — while the extroverts might have more obvious ones, I would personally rather be in a conversation with someone who thinks before they speak. And there are loads of famous, successful people on both sides of the spectrum, although interestingly, it is much easier to find lists featuring the introverted ones (yet more evidence of the value judgments being placed on this dichotomy in our culture).
Maybe our society would be a healthier place if we obsessed less about the introvert-extrovert question and spent more time trying to understand each other as individuals and being basically kind to one another. The Myers-Briggs test is meant, after all, as a tool of self understanding, not another way to bash at your self esteem or feel superior to others.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in: are you an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert? If you’re an ambivert, how do you recharge? How important do you find these distinctions?