Know Yourself, and Those Around You

Introverts, Extroverts and … Ambiverts?

Extrovert 0709 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyYes, you read correctly. Ambiverts. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

If you have Susan Cain‘s book, Quiet, you’ll have already read that at least a third of the people you meet are introverts. Cain reminds us that it was introverts such as Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein who gave us the theories of evolution, relativity and gravity. Introverts J. M. Barrie, George Orwell, Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, Charles Schultz and J. K. Rowling brought life to Peter Pan, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Cat in the Hat, Charlie Brown, Harry Potter and now Detective Cormoran Strike.

Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Are you an introvert …

Cain’s book has been translated into more than 30 languages since its original publication in 2012, and this former corporate lawyer persuasively argues for empowerment of the introvert – whose ranks also include the likes of John Quincy Adams, Warren Buffett, Frederic Chopin, T. S. Eliott, Mahatma Gandhi, Larry Page, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Spielberg, Steve Wozniak, W. B. Yeats and, without doubt, you or some of your loved ones and/or colleagues.

You can read an array of definitions of introversion and extraversion; Cain herself notes Carl Jung’s assessment that, “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert.” She outlines one model of personality type classification containing quadrants reflecting four personality types: calm extroverts, calm introverts, anxious or impulsive extroverts, and anxious introverts.

What of the heretofore relatively unknown ambivert, you ask? One succinct approach is to explain that ambiverts have a balance of both extrovert and introvert characteristics in their personalities.

… an extrovert, or an ambivert?

Earlier in 2013, Adam M. Grant of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania published Rethinking the Extroverted Sales Ideal – The Ambivert Advantage in Psychological Science. Grant’s findings? “The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited”.

You may be surprised to learn that the ambivert is not uncommon. David  Di Salvo, a science writer who contributes to Forbes, Psychology Today and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, reported that surveys indicate that most of us fall into the ambivert range.

An ambivert may be that person in your office who is often gregarious, clearly thriving in working with others; s/he will also, however, carve out time for meditative thought.

In other words, after happily shining in the spotlight, the ambivert may then crave nothing more than a bit of quiet contemplation.

Hands up, now, if you or your organisation have turned to assessments such as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). If you’ve found merit in such instruments, used to support individuals’ career planning and organisations’ recruitment and training planning, or if you’ve tapped into Marcus Buckingham’s strengths-based approach to leadership, invest time in building your understanding of the power of introverts by reading Susan Cain’s Quiet.

For an introductory exploration, turn to Cain’s TED Talks presentation, or her 16-point Manifesto, both of which may be found on her website,

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