By Judi Lirman, MFT
What do Warren Buffet, Al Gore, and J.K. Rowling have in common? They’re all introverts. Surprised?
You may think because these individuals are out in the public that they must be extroverts, but the truth is most people are a combination of the two in varying degrees. As a society, we like to put labels on people, and personality types are just one in a long list of categories.
As a Marriage, Family Therapist for over 30 years, I’ve seen clients with a variety of challenges and personality traits, including extroverts, introverts and ambiverts (people with extrovert and introvert qualities). They come to therapy for different reasons, and aren’t quite sure why something isn’t working in their lives. The more information I have about how someone handles and copes with situations, the more I can help them.
There is no scientific way to determine if you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, but knowing the characteristics of each may explain some of your behaviors. Studies indicate that we act the way we believe we are. So, if you see yourself as an introvert, you’ll act like one.
But it may not be purely behavior based; brain chemicals may also play a part. According to some research, the front part of the brain, which is stimulated by solitary activities, is more prevalent in introverts, while the back portion, controlled by external events, is most active in extroverts.
What are the main differences between the three personality types? Here are some traits that seem to be common in each category.
Why Introverts Enjoy Downtime
If you are an introvert, you enjoy solitude. Reading a book or meditating is much preferable over attending an event or a party. Although you have a close-knit group of friends, you find that too much interaction with others depletes your energy. And meeting new people, well, that’s uncomfortable. What are some other traits that you may possess? You are:
- A great listeners
- Easy to please
- An independent worker
- Likely to avoid conflicts
Extroverts Appreciate Meeting and Interacting with Others
Extroverts love being around people. You feel most at ease in group settings as it helps you re-energize. As an extrovert, you probably don’t take kindly to downtime and want always to remain active and stimulated. As an extrovert, you are:
- Open with others
- Have solid communication skills
- Likely to discuss issues before solving them
- Drawn to environments that are active
- Apt to speak before you think
Ambiverts Have a Balanced View of Life
If you are an ambivert, you have the best of both worlds. According to research conducted by Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, ambiverts are also the most successful in business, especially in sales. You enjoy being social and kicking ideas around with others, but also appreciate time alone so that you can process everything. You also:
- Enjoy variety
- Are neither too expressive or too quiet
- Know when to listen and when to talk
- Pick up on unspoken cues
- Can adapt to a variety of situations
Is One Personality Type Favored Over Another?
Interestingly, American society values extroversion more than introversion or ambiversion. And for many years, businesses have cultivated extroverts as the pillars of their salesforce. But recent studies have shown that ambiverts not extroverts make better salespeople because they are not only outgoing but have empathy for others and listen to what the customer is saying.
So the American perspective on personality strengths and weaknesses may well be forced to change over time. Each of these personality types–introversion, extroversion and ambiversion–has its strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter which group you fit into. What matters is being true to yourself and honoring what/who you are and allow your strengths to develop and move you forward. Forcing yourself to be what you are not makes it harder to be comfortable in yourself and be successful.
The Value of Knowing Your Personality Traits
Although I am not an advocate of labels, knowing how you fit in can be comforting and bring with it self-assuredness and confidence in an often unpredictable world. All any of us can do is to be ourselves, and realize our inherent value.
As I tell my clients, you were born magnificent. Somewhere along the line you have forgotten this, and now have to start believing it once again.
If you need some ideas about how to approach and cope with various life situations, contact me at (818) 998-3205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.