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Are you an Ambivert?

Don't worry, I'm not wondering if you're some rare amphibian from the amazon jungle.

Nevertheless humans are equally fascinating since our personality is like a magnificently colourful and complex puzzle, made up of an infinite number of pieces. Carl Jung, a renowned psychologist in the 1920s, first identified two of these pieces and coined the terms extraversion and introversion, attributing these types to a basic energy distinction. So apparently extroverts draw their energy from an external source that is usually in the form of social interactions while introverts are energized by spending time alone and may find social gatherings exhausting. More recently, a third category has been added named 'Ambiverts' who sit in between the introverts and extroverts spectrum of social interaction. Ambiverts enjoy spending time with people, but also need to check out regularly to refresh and re-energise.

However, people tend to have erroneous assumptions about these classifications, especially introversion and extroversion, since ambiversion is still relatively unknown. Most associated introverts with shyness, low energy, a need to be alone, and a tendency to be reclusive. Extroverts, on the other hand, were described as the 'life of the party', social butterflies, charming, friendly and natural leaders.

Below are some of the persistent myths surrounding extroverts and introverts with interesting rebuttals.

> "Introverts are shy". Introversion is not synonymous with shyness, which is associated with social anxiety and fear. While introverts may appear to be shy they actually prefer to be alone and may take longer to speak because they tend to process ideas internally first. On the other hand, extroverts think while speaking and process things while in conversation.

> "Introverts are sad and extroverts are happy". Research has found that extroverts and introverts differ in what makes them happy which doesn't translate to one being happier than the other. Extroverts tend to be more upbeat and exuberant while introverts find happiness in keeping a low-profile.

> "You are either introvert or an extrovert." Jung once stated, "there is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in a lunatic asylum." This illustrates how personality types overlap depending on situation and circumstance and how unpredictable our behaviour can be when influenced by varying factors. Majority of the people fall in the middle of the continuum and are known as 'ambiverts', as discussed above.

> "Extroverts don't like to be alone." Everyone needs time to re-charge. Extroverts may need less time but they still can find some solace in being by themselves.

> "Extroverts are shallow and bad listeners." Due to the differences in processing of information, extroverts may jump from one topic to another and ask open-ended questions, appearing as if they are not deeply involved or good listeners. But extroverts process information as they are talking and are able to listen, think and speak simultaneously while introverts may need more time to do each separately.

> "Introverts can never be good public speakers." Research suggests that majority of the people who do public speaking are actually more inclined towards the introverted end of the spectrum. You can be a good public speaker and still prefer to spend a majority of your time alone reading rather than attending a party.

> "Introverts need to be fixed in order for them to be extroverts." Many people prefer one personality type over another and while some think introverts are better others may believe the same to be true of extroverts. Neither of them is correct. Both personality types overlap tremendously and have their own unique features.

We are complex creatures, largely influenced by our genes, culture, upbringing, social and educational backgrounds and life experiences. While categorising individuals makes things simpler, at least in academic and literary discussions, it can be a slippery slope to generalisations and stereotypes. We each have different ways in which we realise our potentials and thrive in different situations. Currently, at least in the western world, emphasis is placed on being a 'people person' or that creativity and productivity can only come about through collaboration with others and by possessing a general attitude akin to extroversion. However, more needs to be done in order to better balance society's attitude and the value they place on both extrovert and introvert traits. We also need to be more aware of the continuum of these personality traits and to appreciate that no matter where you find yourself on this spectrum of traits, you are a unique, valued and an important member of society. The secret to successful and functional interactions is not to try and be someone you're not, or to fit into a socially desirable constructed mould, but to better understand yourself and those around you.

Samineh I. Shaheem is the Learning & Development Director at Kawader (, assistant professor of psychology and the owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co-hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Psyched Sundays, Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 9, 2014
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