If you've ever struggled with personality tests to determine whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, you might be another personality type entirely: an ambivert. So what exactly is this type, and how can you tell if you are one? If you find yourself answering questions on personality tests with the answer "that depends!" you might be an ambivert.
First, it's important to recall quickly what introvert and extrovert tendencies mean. Rather than the common perception of introverts being people who like to spend time alone and extroverts being those who love to be in a crowd, to put it simply, the traits of these two types are understood by what type of behavior recharges you, says Elizabeth Derickson, a therapist with Talkspace. Introverts tend to enjoy and be energized by their time alone and often work alone, while extroverts tend to refresh by being around others and working on teams.
What Recharges an Ambivert?
Ambiverts are people who have some extrovert tendencies and some introvert tendencies, says Richard Cockerill, MD, MBE, a practicing forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University in Chicago. Many people find they're extroverted in certain situations, such as a gathering of family and friends, but introverted in others, like a work meeting. Ambiverts tend to engage in middle-ground behaviors, such as preferring to go to a restaurant with a small group of friends rather than a nightclub with a large group. Cadence and timing of activities is also a factor, says Derickson. "[People] can lean toward the ends of the spectrum, but not all the time," she explains. "They might want to go to a busy nightclub twice a year instead of once a month, or they might need weekends of solitude, rather than weeks."
These personality types aren't binary—they fall on a spectrum.
How is it possible to fluctuate on the scale? Well, a lot of personality research on extroverts and introverts views them as a binary rather than a spectrum, Cockerill says. This means that the majority of people fall somewhere between the extremes of being either 100 percent extroverted or 100 percent introverted.
"In other words, most people are ambiverts," Cockerill adds. He estimates that, depending on how strictly the term is defined, about 60 to 75 percent of the population could be defined as ambiverts.
Can You Become an Ambivert?
Sometimes, it may feel like your personality can change over time. For example, you might have been shy in high school, then blossomed into a more outgoing person during your college years or during a life transition such as moving to a new city to start a job. But in reality, Cockerill says, our core personality doesn't actually evolve that much, and personality characteristics in populations remain remarkably stable over time due to the heavy influence of genes on our personalities.
Part of personality, our temperament, is relatively fixed by the time we reach adulthood. Having a preference for certain kinds of social interactions is closely related to temperament. For example, you may never go from being a person who prefers going out with one other couple to going out with a group of 20 friends at once, or vice versa. What may change, however, is how we utilize our strengths and manage our weaknesses, says Cockerill.
On the extroversion/introversion spectrum, extremes can lead to problems. People who are high on the introvert scale may have a higher risk of depression, while those who are excessively extroverted may engage in high-risk, impulsive behaviors. "So, we can seek out environments that help us find a happy medium," says Cockerill. For example, someone who's predominantly introverted can build structured, consistent social interaction into their life, like joining a weekly book club or sports team. A person who's strongly extroverted may get into mindfulness meditation to learn how to tolerate and be at peace with being alone.
As we have different experiences, we can also learn to enjoy them for what they are, says Derickson. For instance, maybe you don't enjoy public speaking and will never feel recharged by that experience, but you can learn to take good things from doing it—such as interacting with an audience on a smaller scale or feeling like you're contributing to a greater cause. The point is that you can find the good parts of different situations and apply them, even if you don't take energy from those situations, Derickson emphasizes.
How to Tell if You Might Be an Ambivert
There are many personality tests you can take to examine your personality, but often you can simply examine your own behaviors, says Derickson. Ask yourself: Where do you feel most comfortable? Another telling indicator is thinking about what experiences you leaned into during different times in your life. As a child, did you play by yourself or with other children? As a teenager, did you enjoy spending Friday nights reading a book or were you sneaking out with friends? Or maybe you'd sneak out with pals, but felt uneasy about it, and secretly wished you were home on the couch with a good TV show. "Use that information as a springboard to assess what you like and dislike now," Derickson says, "and take in how you may or may not have changed."
If you want to undergo more rigorous testing to understand your personality type, you can look into a test administered by a psychologist or psychiatrist, says Cockerill. But generally speaking, if you feel like you could be somewhere in the middle of the extroversion/introversion spectrum depending on the situation, you can go ahead and consider yourself an ambivert, he adds.
What to Know About Ambiverts
If you are an ambivert, you are able to have a wider variety of experiences than if you skew more toward either end of the spectrum, says Derickson. Personal and professional relationships with ambiverts can also be very rewarding—but like with any relationship, communication is the key. In a work setting, if you have an ambivert on your team, you're in luck, says Derickson. They typically have good employee outcomes given their ability to adapt. However, when you're doing problem solving or brainstorming, make sure to give space to all personality types on your team. Consider having a joint meeting, then break into small groups or work individually before coming back together.