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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Move Over Extroverts and Introverts—Ambiverts Might Have You Beat When it Comes to Success

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Extroverts get energy from being with lots of people, and introverts prefer to recharge alone, right? In other words, extroverts are outgoing, life-of-the-party type people, while introverts are shy and quiet. While these overly simplified (and honestly, somewhat inaccurate) stereotypes are repeated often, it’s nowhere near that black and white.

Who among us, after all, always wants to be around other people? Who desires to always go solo? I don’t know anyone like that, and, in fact, Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychiatry, who popularized the personality descriptions, is known for saying “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

But, even though you probably fall somewhere on the spectrum—and not on one end—chances are you identify at least a little more closely with one over the other. And if you happen to be one of those people who falls smack dab in the middle—neither extrovert nor introvert but ambivert—well then, you just may have an edge when it comes to your career. According to a recent Fast Company article, this third type can mean great things when it comes to the workplace. Leadership consultant Liz Bywater says that “Ambiverts who are flexible, adaptable, and self-aware are able to bring what’s needed to a given situation.”

The adjectives Bywater uses to describe ambiverts’ behavior in a professional setting suggests that they have the best of both worlds when it comes to work. They can thrive in environments that require close team collaboration, but they can also produce great results on their own. Energized by both these scenarios, ambiverts possess flexibility that allows them to make strides in business. You may prefer working on your own, but if teamwork is required, and you can switch gears without getting flustered or frustrated, you might fall into this category.

What’s especially interesting about the suggestion that this even-keeled personality rules the workplace is that it turns some traditional ideas on their heads. Do outgoing extroverts really make the best salespeople, for example? Not according to Adam Grant, professor of management at Wharton, who says that because ambiverts “naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening” they’re more likely to close a sale as a result of their ability to “express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm” without acting overeager.

Since most of us have both tendencies, it’s important not to lean too much on the stereotypes and box ourselves into either description. If you constantly reinforce the idea that you don’t work well in groups, you’re likely to enter the group setting reluctantly and shy away from participating, which is ultimately a missed opportunity to strengthen your weak extrovert muscles. So, while it’s good to know what style you most identify with, it’s also a smart idea to not pigeon-hole yourself—not with the changing business landscape and definitely not with the insinuation that ambiverts are the wave of the future workspace.