[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Monday, December 15, 2014

7 Traits: Are You An Extrovert, Introvert, or Ambivert?

Are you an introvert or extrovert? For years, I’ve been told (and so answered) that I was an extrovert. Turns out that wasn’t true. Or, at least, it was an oversimplification of the truth.

Most personality assessments (which I love), define you as one or the other. I’ve always received the result of extrovert from them. And all my friends and family have told me time and again that I’m a total extrovert. They’re basing this on true experiences of me.

I do love crowds (the bigger the better). Attention equals pleasure. Danger sounds fun. And I think by talking—I often know what I think only after it came out of my mouth. So I’m an extrovert, right?

It depends on what you mean my extrovert. I have read a bunch on this topic lately (the best book so far was Quiet by Susan Cain) and I’ve learned that there are really many different traits we throw in two big buckets, labeling them introvert and extrovert.

Extrovert Wiring Introvert Wiring
Motivated most by rewards (focus on what you might win) Motivated most by what you could lose (focus on cost)
Low sensitivity to the environment around you (so you like louder, brighter, more) High sensitivity to your environment (so you like softer, gentler, less)
Think by talking Think silently then talk about your conclusion
Energized by crowds Energized by alone time
Focused on external environment (what others think and feel) Focused on internal environment (what I think and feel)
Really enjoy novelty and variety Really enjoy familiarity and routine
Thrive under pressure (competition, deadlines, attention, etc) Thrive when you set your own goals (you push yourself enough that the extra pressure distracts you)

We talk about people as if they all are all one thing or another. But it’s not always true. Many people aren’t just all one type. In fact, many people are a mix of traits, part-extrovert and part-introvert.

Turns out when I look at a more thorough list of extroverts and introverts, I’m actually what is called an ambivert. (Comes from the same word we get ambidextrous—which I’m not—meaning you can use either hand). The extrovert elements are truly there. But there are other, less obvious facets of introversion that are also totally true. It’s not all or nothing.

For example, while I love crowds—they really give me a lot of energy—my favorite way to spend a day off is reading quietly at home. And while I think by talking, writing is even better at helping me thing (hence this blog) so I spend hours quietly writing and rewriting my thoughts. And while I love new and innovative things, I eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day and have the same lunch about 80% of the time (occasionally my lunch is chosen by others).

For fun, I invite you to make a totally non-scientific personality assessment out of this. How many extrovert and introvert qualities do you have? 

(By the way, I am more extrovert than introvert. 4 of the 7 traits listed above, I lean extrovert).

I’m not an expert on this area, so these aren’t all the qualities that could be listed. They’re just the ones I know about right now. I’m still learning. And the more I learn about how to get the best out of myself, the more I realized I need to make room for the introverted aspects of myself, to honor and encourage them just as much as I have the extroverted aspects of my life.

I’m writing more. I’m scheduling more alone time after big crowd events. And I’m finding I have more energy, deeper insights, and just plain more fun being me. What part of your wiring needs more room to breathe?

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