An Easy Self-Analysis Question: Are You an Introvert? Extrovert? Ambivert?
-by Dr Linda Moore
If you are like many, even most of us, you wonder about yourself once in a while – your personality, thoughts, feelings, your mild or even extreme challenges in managing life and work and relationships.
There are dozens of methods for “self-exploration” of your emotional/psychological makeup and one of the most basic and useful is to understand, even test, your level of introversion and extroversion. And in recent years, researchers added a category of analysis called “ambivert” – an individual who falls in the middle of the introversion/ extroversion scale – giving you three options for who you “might be.”
To start your “self-analysis,” consider this question: How do you recharge? At the end of a long day, do you choose or even need to be by yourself or with only one or two others, or do you prefer a group, an activity, something to do? The way we re-ignite our energy is the bottom line, or most simple quick self-assessment, for looking at this personality question. Introverts need solitude/quiet/opportunities to rest and reflect. Extroverts need interaction/conversation/ connection/activity.
If you find your answer puts you somewhere in the middle, you might be an “ambivert.” Sometimes they like quiet, sometimes they like activity, sometimes they like a mix.
Perhaps a bigger question is what difference does any of that actually make? It typically makes a difference, or feels particularly important in those occasional moments when your feelings, reactions, and choices about how you handle life raise questions in your mind…. for example, “What made that so hard for me to handle?” or “What makes this relationship issue so hard to resolve?” or “Why can’t I figure this out?” Or maybe even, “What’s wrong with me?”
And more of us, perhaps more than we realize, ask such questions. I encounter the inquiries in both my consulting with organizations and in my private practice with individuals and couples. We DO wonder from time to time what makes us tick.
One basic fact: Extroverts dominate the population. An estimate from all the years of measuring E/I suggests that extroverts make up close to 75 percent of the population. That reality can make some Introverts feel extremely different from the majority of people they interact with – and, in fact, it helps to know they are different. The challenge is not to suggest different isn’t okay or in any way unhealthy. The more we understand the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors of our “own type,” the more we understand how to “navigate the differences.” And perhaps not so surprising, we often end up in both personal and work relationships with people who differ from us on E/I measurements. We are drawn to those who are different, who function in ways we don’t. Many couples experience the E/I difference in their relationships and simple understanding coupled with good negotiating skills can make many conflicts more manageable.
The historical research also suggests that more of us than we realize fall in “the middle” – consequently the more recent label of “ambivert.” Some experts conclude that perhaps two-thirds of the population are ambiverts; while others say they make up less than 20 percent of the population . . . and I’d add that those who identify as ambivert have “a leaning” in one direction or another on the E/I scale.
The best test for measurement is the Myers/Briggs Inventory. And cost free versions of that inventory can be found online and in an accessible book identified below. Clearly, I’m suggesting starting with some actual data and then discussing your results with a significant other, colleagues, or friends. With scores in hand, asking for feedback is the best approach. And unlike taking “tests” that many of us like to avoid, these are actually fun as well as satisfying, self-revealing, and useful!
Consider this example: In a challenging conversation with a significant other about how to spend the weekend that leads to tension, it’s easy to conclude the “other” is being stubborn or difficult – even selfish. If you do discover you have some fairly big differences on the E/I scale, the reality is more basic: one of you might need more of a quiet weekend, while the other might want more activity – with numerous plans. If you slowly study the differences in your basic makeup, negotiation becomes far more plausible because you substitute “differences” in your conclusions and assumptions for “why are you always so difficult to please?”
And in a work setting, an introvert sometimes needs more time to reflect before making a decision, while an extrovert is often pretty quick with a choice to move on. So, again, rather than impatience and annoyance with one another, you acknowledge the difference in “approach” in the way you think things through, instead of deciding the “other” is just being an obstreperous pain.
A final question: Do you intuitively “know” if you are an introvert or an extrovert? Or somewhere in between? Make some notes on what you think before taking an inventory. Additionally, you’ll see the inventory measures other factors as well: 1) are you more of an intuitive person or a sensing person? 2) do you rely more on thinking or on feeling? 3) and, finally, are you structured and organized or more spontaneous, sometimes making last-minute decisions? Remember, this information can actually be both fun and informative. And it might answer questions you sometimes ask yourself about important people in your life.