While introverts are defined by their quiet nature and love of spending time alone, extroverts are known for their outgoing personalities and enjoyment of social events. Not everyone falls into these clear-cut categories, and when a person encompasses both characteristics, they are known as ambiverts.
The assumption is that a quiet and timid person is more likely to be an introvert. Along the same lines, those who appear to be more boisterous and outgoing are often labelled as extroverts.
The bottom line is everyone has a unique personality.
An introvert is someone that is predominantly focused on their personal thoughts and feelings rather than external things and other people.
On the other hand, an extrovert is largely concerned with the external world, focusing on their social connections and outward experiences.
Whilst some people may fall neatly into either introversion or extroversion, these categorisations are often based on stereotypes and not entirely true when defining a person’s character.
Introversion and extroversion are not clear-cut.
Despite the dichotomised representations we see in the media, people are not always one or the other – instead, they exist on a spectrum.
A person may be more introverted, but still display signs of extroversion, perhaps enjoying large social events and interaction.
People are multifaceted, not singular, and so attempts to squeeze a person into the scopes of introversion or extroversion can be extremely limiting.
In many cases, a person may sit in the middle of the spectrum, being equally introverted and extroverted. This is called ambiversion.
Ambiversion is a blurring of the boundaries between introversion and extroversion, when instead of fitting into one, a person floats between the two.
Extroversion and introversion are in fact, determined by the direction of a person’s energy, and the ways in which it is drained and recharged.
Here’s how it works:
Introverts acquire energy through internal reactions, such as thought and responses to ideas. They prefer to do things in their own company, or with a small group of people that they feel comfortable with.
In larger social settings, an introvert’s energy is drained and as a result, they need to recharge by spending time alone.
Introverts often take time to reflect on situations so that they can think about their reactions to the external world and make decisions about their future actions. They are more reserved and feel the most comfortable alone, in their internal sphere.
Extroverts get their energy from external interactions such as active involvement in social events and activities. They feel energised and invigorated when they are around other people.
Extroverts feel comfortable in the presence of others and feel relaxed in social settings.
Being open about thoughts, opinions and ideas comes naturally, and they often better understand issues when they are verbally communicated and face-to-face.
A key component of extroverts is a wide social circle; they often have a big friend group and maintain connections with different people.
Most commonly, introverts are perceived as passive, and extroverts as active.
Certain personalities cannot be defined by either introversion or extroversion; instead, they may be ambivert, which is a combination of the two.
Ambiverts tend to thrive in social settings and on their own; not feeling drained by either situation. They equally enjoy spending time by themselves and with other people.
Unlike introverts and extroverts who may find it challenging to adapt to circumstances outside of their comfort zone, ambiverts can easily acclimatise to new situations.
They may feel at ease when engaging with other people on short notice, not feeling bothered about putting their book down to start a conversation with the person next to them.
Generally, ambiverts can adapt to what is happening around them.
These opposing concepts were first introduced by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist. At the time, Jung believed that humans exist as part of a continuum, with different personality types at isolated ends of the scale.
This can help us to banish boxed-in stereotypes and move towards a better understanding of ourselves and the people around us.
Despite the dichotomised representations we see in the media, people are not always one or the other.
Introverted personalities are often exaggerated and emphasized as positive or negative – many of these exaggerations are false. Three common misconceptions include: they do not like people, they are socially anxious, and they always want to be alone.
Because of this, introverts are stereotyped as quiet, reserved and nervous in public settings, but this is not necessarily the case. They can still enjoy social events and feel relaxed and confident – it simply means that after being around others, they need time to recharge their energy.
Extroverts can also enjoy time to themselves, away from the busyness of a hectic social life. Opposite to introverts, however, they eventually return to social encounters as a way of regaining their energy.
The bottom line is, everyone has a unique personality – whether they tend more toward extroversion, introversion or somewhere in the middle. These terms are just ways of describing where you get your energy from and how you relate to the world more broadly.
Knowing where you fall on the spectrum can help you to know more about your personality style, teaching you about your emotional needs and processes of decision-making.