Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, you would have heard the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ bandied about. They are personality types on opposing ends of the spectrum, and there’s a multitude of tests available online to determine which way you’re inclined.
But what if you’re smack bang down the middle, or have some qualities of both? This is the issue I have dealt with. I don’t fit neatly into either camp – and I’m not alone. It was only recently that I realised there’s a name for it. Apparently, as much as 68 per cent of the population fall into the ‘ambivert’ category.
An ambivert is defined as a person who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personality.
A novel description I favour is this: Being an ambivert is akin to being ambidextrous – but with your personality. In essence, you can demonstrate extroverted or introverted qualities according to the situation at hand (and who you’re dealing with).
Ambiverts, the most flexible of the personality types, have some inherent advantages over hard core introverts and extroverts. In the game of change, static environments do not exist. Organisations are gung-ho into rightsizing, consolidating, merging, or digitising their businesses at G-force speeds.
Flexibility is a change manager’s calling card. And ambiverts are their personality type. Just how does being an ambivert translate into competitive advantage? Read on…
1. Comfortable in a range of social situations
A whole-company, quarterly, town-hall update? A stand-up status report meeting? How about a raucous project milestone celebration now and again? If you’re at ease in all of the above, I’d bet you’re flexible and someone who appreciates solo down time as well as time spent with others.
No matter how formal the workplace, social elements do exist. Whether it’s a ‘corridor conversation’ en route to a meeting or impromptu chitchat while waiting for a 7am coffee order, social interactions occur on a daily basis. This is Change Manager 101 – the ability to engage with and relate to different stakeholders in a myriad of situations.
My most cherished relationships have stemmed from a throwaway comment or casual observation. One of my strongest friendships was ignited by turning to the stranger next to me and saying, “What I wouldn’t give to ditch these heels and be watching Suits in my PJs!”
But social conversations also set the foundation for deeper work-related dialogue. Asking questions such as: “Is there any part of this project that keeps you awake at night?”; “What’s been your most significant accomplishment this week?”; or “What’s the greatest learning from last quarter that you’ve implemented?” have led to some candid and frank discussions, all made possible by incrementally building relationships through social interactions. That’s impossible if you’re uncomfortable in different settings.
2. Cool, calm and collected
Ambiverts tend to be less … shall we say … volatile than those with more extreme personalities. Neither prone to inappropriately expressing themselves loudly, nor bottling up feelings and seething with silent contempt, an ambivert exerts emotional intelligence by regularly sense checking their mental state during the day.
Introverts and extroverts react to various stimuli in their dominant natural way, but ambiverts have a few cards to play. This allows them to adapt to a variety of situations. They know when to stand down and when to speak up. We analyse the situation, the stakeholders involved, and determine the optimal response in a methodical manner through careful consideration of organisational characteristics, environmental drivers and stakeholder motivations.
Oh, and disclaimer: There can be a downside. Sometimes, I can be a little ‘too cool for school’, resulting in a perception of aloofness, indifference or apathy. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m either observing the situation or in the midst of formulating my thoughts in a coherent manner.
3. The best sales people aren’t the ones who talk the biggest game
Whether it’s our knowledge, our skills, our networks or a physical product, at the end of the day we are all selling something. For example, as a change manager, I could be selling a new business process, technology upgrade or revamped corporate structure to a client’s employees and their various stakeholders.
Ambiverts know when to talk and when to listen. A study conducted by Adam Grant of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania blasted the assumption that the highest performing sales people have extroverted personalities.
Instead, his study shows ambiverts make the best sales people. They raked in 24 per cent more revenue than introverts, and an astonishing 32 per cent more than extroverts! Why?
Ambiverts are intuitive. They understand when to pitch, when to persuade, when to push and when to pause. When you think about it, it’s quite logical: Sales people sell to both extroverts and introverts, and each requires a different approach. Ambiverts have a broader repertoire of responses at their disposal.
The benefits of being an ambivert
Essentially, being an ambivert is like being an all-rounder. Pliable and supple, we adapt to whatever environment we find ourselves in. Of course there are ambiverts with more introverted tendencies and some with more extroverted tendencies, but we’ve pretty much got a foot firmly in each camp.
So there you go. The next time someone asks your personality type, don’t delve into lengthy explanations of how you’re extroverted in some situations and introverted in others.
Just tell them you have the ambivert advantage.