Introverts, Extroverts & Ambiverts

In today’s society, extroverts are often looked upon as superior to introverts, who are usually more shy, quiet and sometimes unconfident. However, there are benefits and positive aspects of being an introvert.

In Susan Cain’s Ted talk, “The power of introverts,” she argues about the bias against introverts in society. She begins with a personal story about her experience at a summer camp as a child and the reactions she received as a result of packing a suitcase full of books to read during her time there.

While this was Cain’s way of being social, it was not accepted by the other members of the camp or by the counselors, who expressed concern over her choice to read rather than engage in activities. So, rather than be unaccepted by the group, she chose to put the books away until she returned home from camp. This marked the beginning of Cain’s suppression of her introverted personality to become an extrovert.

Rather than becoming a writer like she had always dreamed of, she chose to become a Wall Street lawyer to prove to herself that she could be bold and assertive, like extroverts.  She continues her story about how she made self-negating choices, without even realizing what she was doing, and how this is common in most introverts.

Cain states that while this is what we do, it is not only our loss, but also the loss of our colleagues and communities and others that we may come in contact with. “Why?” you might ask, well because when it comes to creativity and to leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best.

With a third to a half of the population being introverted, it is different than from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social simulation while introversion is more about your response to stimulation, including social stimulation.

Most of the time, introverts feel at their “prime” and at their “most-capable” when they are in quieter and more low-key environments.

Cain points out that according to the insights of contemporary psychology, we cannot even be in groups of people without instinctively mirroring or mimicking their opinions. We start to mold into the beliefs of the people we are around without even realize what we are doing to gain attention or approval.

As introverts, there is naturally no pressing need to be sociable or gain attention and approval and which allows you to spend time on relationships and close friendships, rather than the desire for social acceptance.

For me, Cain’s talk became more personal when she spoke not of introversion and the qualities of introverts but about ambiverts. These are people who do not really prefer one way of functioning over another. They are equally comfortable with the situations where the introvert feels most at home and situations where the extrovert  is having a good time.

So while there is power behind being an introvert and positives for being an extrovert, find the middle line between the two and become an ambivert.

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4 thoughts on “Introverts, Extroverts & Ambiverts

  1. I have had many conversations with people about this subject. Being an introvert myself I have found where the qualities of being an extrovert are more highly favored. A lot of the times I have questioned myself on if I am actually an introvert but people usually settling for the term “out-going” introvert. But, I guess Cain is calling it an ambivert. There is no shame in being an introvert!

    • Definitely no shame in being an introvert. I’ve read about half of Cain’s book, “Quiet”, and she goes into a lot of detail about the importance of introverts in society. She’s really scientific in her work; she always has evidence to support the things she says. I had no idea she did a TED talk about the same topic, I may go back and watch it sometime.

  2. I, like Katie, have had many many conversations about this. My sister is an extreme introvert and I am an extreme extrovert. Because of the enormous difference in our personalities– we clashed. I think growing up it would have been helpful for us to find some sort of middle ground, bringing out the best in both of us. Awesome post, thanks for the perspective!

  3. This is really interesting! I have always thought of myself as someone who is inbetween an introvert and an extrovert; not exactly in the way you describe here, but this description is very useful in thinking about how people interact in the world. Thanks for sharing.

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