Extrovert, introvert or Ambivert: Which one fits?
“Hey Margaret, I’ve discovered I’m not an extrovert but an introvert!” After listening to my score on author Susan Cain’s twenty- question introvert versus extrovert questionnaire, along with my observation of my husband’s classically extroverted behavior contrasted with my own, my friend from undergraduate days response was a hearty laugh followed by, “Lin, we’re both introverts! It’s just taken us years to figure it out!”
If you have spent more a week in the corporate world, then the Meyers Brigg Inventory is undoubtedly familiar to you; perhaps you too hesitated when you were answering the questions which would clearly lead to the “diagnosis” of introvert versus extrovert. There were no other options but that error has been rectified by ambivert- more on that later.
Since we live in the world inhabited by “The Extrovert Ideal”, author of Quiet, Susan Cain estimates that a third to half of Americans are by nature, introverted, but do daily battle to persuade themselves and others that they are extroverts.
Because “introvert” conjures up this, right?
therefore the thoughtful, reflective type of person is well aware of the expectations of her superiors and employees and most of us answer the questions in a way befitting the image of a boss, a Director, a CEO.
The basis of the Meyer Briggs Inventory is simplified Jungian psychology -an oxymoron since Carl Jung’s personality theory is far from simple. The test condenses Jung’s personality analysis into categories: Introvert equals shy, passive and weak while Extrovert implies strength, leadership and courage. Although these simple ratios have some semblance of relation to Jung’s theory of basic personality, the reality is a good deal more complicated. The result is what Cain describes as the extrovert ideal.
Cain, a closet introvert who has recently “come out”, argues that all major institutions, from church to corporation favor the extrovert with their relentless emphasis on group activities of all forms and purposes.
The extrovert ideal is simply another ploy that our culture holds over those who tend to stand back and watch when in a big group; prefer to write rather than speak.
While in my corporate life, I was immersed in the activities that befit my position and was considered by most as very extroverted, out-going, self-assured and confident.
But when that phase of my life ended and I began to write fiction, I realized that I preferred books or writing to casual conversation; that in a crowd of strangers, my husband would be out and about introducing himself to people and enjoying their conversation while I couldn’t wait to get back to the article I needed to finish or the great book I was reading. Enjoying the fact that no longer am I required to present a certain image or pay attention to a member of the board of trustees.
All of which results in my realizing that there are situations where I act like an extrovert but that my current vocation as writer fits perfectly with a more introverted self. Ergo: An Ambivert!
I think the categories of extrovert, introvert or ambivert are like all labels: woefully deficient in understanding ourselves or another. [Including but not limited to Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.]
Jung’s warning about our predilection for quick and easy compartmentalizing was ignored even by his peers:
Jung Personality Types
Even in medical circles the opinion has got about that my method of treatment consists in fitting patients into this system and giving them corresponding “advice.” . . . My typology is far rather a critical apparatus serving to sort out and organize the welter of empirical material, but not in any sense to stick labels on people . . . . It is not a physiognomy and not an anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with the organization and delimiting of psychic processes that can be shown to be typical.
Thanks to Wharton Professor Adam Grant, some of the biases in favor of extroverts are being reversed. A study Grant conducted of more than 300 sales people revealed that extroverted sales persons were less successful than those who fit in neither the introvert or extrovert category.
Right, the ambiverts were the winners over either the extrovert or introvert.
If you can overlook my patently obvious love/hate relationship with labels, want to see where you fall on Adam Grant’s survey? Take Grant’s quizand find out!