I regularly swing back and forth between social butterfly and complete hermit – which is why I was relieved to hear the phrase “extroverted introvert” for the first time.
Also known as an ambivert, an extroverted introvert is someone who exhibits qualities of both introversion and extroversion.
My typical weekday exemplifies this well. Usually, my mornings are spent out and about, taking sincere joy in play dates and befriending other mothers at the park. My afternoons, by contrast, are spent at home, happily curled up on the couch in my pyjamas. Sometimes this is reversed, or I’ll find myself in or out for a whole day, but the half-day of each is my ideal. Small dinner parties are awesome. Night clubs are terrifying. Friendships feed my soul, but crowds drain me.
Here are some other things ambiverts like myself want you to know:
1. Our spot on the spectrum changes with our environment.
Your ambivert friend may be loud and gregarious around her family, but quiet and thoughtful at the office. Seeing her in both situations may feel like meeting two entirely different people.
2. Talking to strangers is fine – but don’t expect us to keep it to small talk.
Although an ambivert can hold up her end of a conversation, talking about the weather will not be enough to engage her. Her social energy is limited enough that she won’t want to waste it on meaningless chatter. She will likely push the conversation into deeper territory or bow out entirely.
3. We like to be alone – we don’t like to be lonely.
There is a big difference between the two. Choosing to sit at home with a tub of ice cream and a coloring book feels fantastic. Sitting at home because nobody called you back feels sad and lame.
4. Getting us out of the house can be a challenge.
If you catch your friend on a highly introverted day, you may just be better off leaving him at home. He might manage to be social, but he’ll just be thinking about his books and his couch the whole time.
5. If we’re new, you can find us in the back of the room.
An introverted extrovert will approach new situations with cautious excitement. If we know someone in the group, we will likely cling to them a bit as we become comfortable. If we do not, we might waver on the edge of the crowd, slowly getting used to the water rather than jumping in all at once.
6. We’re selectively social.
We don’t mean to be snobs. We just have limited social energy and prefer interacting one-on-one or in small groups. For this reason, we can only afford to invest our social time and energy in those who we feel truly connected to.
7. Making friends is easy. Keeping them is hard.
We like talking to people, but we value our alone-time, as well. This can make maintaining a friendship tricky. If your ambivert friend makes an effort to consistently invest time and energy in your friendship, be glad. You are truly special to him.
8. Our social desires change with the breeze.
We might be desperate to hang out with you on Friday, but then not answer your call on Saturday. We’re not mad at you. We’re just super comfortable in bed watching Netflix.
9. We can talk to you for hours.
If you manage to catch him in a one-on-one situation, an extroverted introvert will just not shut up. Once his interest is engaged, there’s no stopping him.
10. Listening is great too, though.
Sometimes we want to be a part of the action, but our social energy levels are too low for us to contribute in a meaningful way. Listening allows us to get to know you without burning up our social fuel. We also know its value from our chattier moments when we are desperate for an ear.
Did any of these resonate with you? Don’t be surprised if they did – more than half the population is ambiverted, according to Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
His research shows that roughly two-thirds of people are ambiverts, while one-third are either strong introverts or strong extroverts.
“Ambiverts are like Goldilocks,” he claims. “They offer neither too much nor too little.” Treasure the introverted extrovert in your life, or embrace these qualities in yourself. Ambiverts might have it just right.