What's An Ambivert & How Can You Tell If You Are One?

Photographed by Kara Birnbaum.
Whether you're flirting on a dating app, unloading to your therapist, or making small talk during an ice-breaker activity, at some point most of us have been asked about our "personality types." While some people know their Myers-Briggs Type letters by heart, or fully embrace being an introvert, other people have a harder time putting themselves in a box.
Well, that's where the "ambivert," comes into play. Way back in 1923, a psychologist named Edmund Smith Conklin invented what he believed to be "the ambivert," which is essentially a personality trait to describe someone in the middle of the spectrum of introverts and extroverts.
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According to Conklin, sometimes ambiverts are leaders, and sometimes they're followers. Ambiverts can grow up as extroverts, then become introverted later in life. Basically, ambiverts are good at reading the room, and depending on the situation and circumstances, they can shift their personality to fit. "This ability to oscillate between what is clearly introversion and what is as clearly extraversion, to find values of life frequently in each phase of activity, is what I have called ambiversion," Conklin wrote in a 1924 paper.
The thing about ambiverts is that there are a lot of people who could relate to this category. Think about it: we all have moments when we want to be a wallflower, and other times when we feel like chatting up random strangers. We've likely tried on different personas at different times in our lives, too. People are multidimensional, and while some people identify strongly with an extrovert or introvert archetype, we may have several other characteristics that make up our unique personalities.
Because "ambiversion" is so common and relatable, psychologists and psychiatrists have not been all that interested in the concept. Researchers "simply did not see the utility of a category for the normal or average person," writes Ian J. Davidson, PhD, a psychology professor at York University who has studied ambiverts. But from a business perspective, though, ambiversion may have its perks. Some research has shown that ambiverts tend to be better salespeople than introverts or extroverts, because they're good listeners and talkers. Other studies suggest that ambiverts make good leaders because they're assertive without being overbearing or overconfident.
While experts can't seem to agree on how to categorize someone as an ambivert, there are online quizzes that you can take to guesstimate where you land. (Adam Grant, PhD, a psychology professor at Wharton who has studied ambiverts created a free 10-question survey that's worth a try.) The results may help you discover more aspects of your personality that you didn't realize existed before, or they might confirm what you already knew to be true.
So, the next time someone asks you whether you're an introvert or extrovert, you can just tell them you're an "ambivert." It'll either start an interesting conversation about a topic they didn't know about before, or get them to leave you alone — and honestly, isn't that the ambivert's dream scenario?
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