Thoughts on influence, leadership, and identity

One of the best known “personality” tests in use today is the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). This assessment measures a person’s preferences among four dichotomies; the extent to which a person expresses these preferences determines how they experience the world — and how others experience them. The MBTI can be a powerful tool for helping people develop self-awareness, especially in the ways their preferences interrelate with others’ preferences.

One of the dichotomies that the MBTI measures is that of extraversion vs. introversion. However, a new term, “Ambiversion,” is being used increasingly as a way to describe those who seem to fit firmly in the middle of this scale.

Author and sales expert Daniel Pink writes about the ambivert in his book, “It’s Human to Sell.” Pink asserts that influential people, including the most effective salespeople, are neither extraverts nor introverts but ambiverts — people whose preferences and behavior patterns lie somewhere in the middle.

Why does ambiversion predict success? Pink writes, “Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little, [and] overwhelm others with the force of their personalities.” On the other hand, “Introverts can be shy to initiate, too skittish to deliver unpleasant news and too timid to close the deal.” Ambiverts, however, “know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.”

Social commentator/blogger Daniel Kao expands this definition in several ways:

Ambiverts sit on the spectrum of social interaction right in between the introverts and extroverts. Ambiverts enjoy spending time with people, but can get worn out by people, as well. Ambiverts are also very capable of doing things alone, but spending an entire day alone can suck them into a depressed, unproductive mood.

Ambiverts love interacting with people, but in a very purposeful way. Ambiverts can have extremely animated and interactive conversations, or mellow and meditative ones. Ambiverts will defend both their personal time as well as their social time.

Ambiverts process information best when they process internally and externally. Ambiverts need time and space to process things on their own, but they also need people whom they can trust to process things with externally. In order for ambiverts to fully process information, they usually need both.

Ambiverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, but dive deep when they are truly passionate. Ambiverts can be thought or action oriented, depending on the situation, but they are also oftentimes both.

The challenge for ambiverts is finding one thing to stick with. Because ambiverts do well socially and individually, it’s easy for an ambivert to become the jack of all trades, having knowledge in many different areas but not necessarily an expert on any of them.