I just took a quiz to see whether or not I was an introvert or an extrovert and found out that I was an “ambivert.” (This quiz is associated with the book Quiet by Susan Cain which I highly recommend to EVERYONE, extrovert, introvert or ambivert.) I had never heard this term before, and apparently neither has spellcheck. Google tells me I am “a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.” So I’m deciding to call myself an extroverted introvert instead because I don’t feel particularly balanced today and associate more strongly with the introvert side of myself.
The whole extrovert vs. introvert thing can be confusing for those of us who feel like more of a mix. People always say you’re an introvert if you gain energy by being alone and an extrovert if you gain energy from other people, but my experience is a lot more nuanced than that. I gain energy when I’m by myself only if I’m doing something stimulating my brain, such as reading a great book, running, playing music, or writing something interesting. I lose energy very quickly by taking naps, watching TV, feeling bored, or being alone for too long. Likewise, I gain energy when I’m hanging out with awesome people or going to fun parties with interesting conversations. Small talk drains the shit out of me, as does going to large events where I’m expected to meet people and make a good impression (like going to church or visiting family I don’t know well).
The worst things about being my type of extroverted introvert:
1. While we do hate small talk and talking to people we don’t like, we’re often really great at being polite and pretending we don’t mind it. We do usually want to make other people feel comfortable. This gets us stuck in a lot of boring and life-sucking conversations.
2. It can take us a while to warm up to new people because we have no desire to waste energy or emotion proving ourselves in a large group of strangers. This is probably off-putting to new people but a lot easier for us. This also often makes people think we don’t have anything we want to say which is frustrating when we want to contribute and connect. We want to break out in song like Aaron Burr in Hamilton: “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?”
But it’s really not all bad. I like that I don’t enjoy small talk because it means that more of my conversations steer in the direction of things I care about and interest me. It also means the friendships I focus on are strong. Just like any other personality type, there are strengths and weaknesses, and as I learn how I don’t fit into the typical E or I category, it helps me know better how to use my personality strengths.
Does anyone else feel somewhere in between the two opposites? I bet there are more of us out there than we know.