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How to be everyone's type

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We’ve all heard extroverts and introverts, but should we be yearning for a middle ground between the two? Kerry Potter investigation

Illustration: Lisa Sheehan

Illustration: Lisa Sheehan

Within our social circles we all have the party friend who is always first on the dance floor and the shy one who has to be dragged under the glitter ball to consciously mix. Extraversion and introversion will also have cropped up in psychological tests for job applications, or betting on which colleagues will gossip endlessly and which will remain silent in business meetings.

We tend to think of extroversion and introversion as shorthand for being loud or quiet, but researchers believe a more precise definition involves how someone responds to stimuli. Extroverts are energized and energized by outside stimulation while introverts – while often perfectly capable of being around people and noise – need some solitary time to recharge and regroup.

Ambiversion, on the other hand, is the middle ground between the two extremes – and a new buzzword in this area of ​​research.

Management professor Karl Moore, who works at McGill University in Montreal and the University of Oxford, has written a forthcoming book, We’re all ambivert now, based on interviews with 450 CEOs about their leadership personalities and styles. “In today’s complex and uncertain environment, senior leaders must increasingly act as ambiverts, that is, someone who can sometimes behave like an extrovert and sometimes like an introvert. “, he says. Understanding how people work and adapting your own behavior accordingly can lead to greater success and happiness in a variety of settings, Moore says. community.’

Anyone can hone their ambivert skills and find that hallowed middle ground. “Everybody likes to think he’s ambiverted,” Moore says. “All the CEOs I’ve interviewed say they are, but it’s not statistically likely.” Introversion, ambiversion, and extroversion occur on a bell curve, with about 40% more people on the introverted side, about 40% more on the extrovert side, and about 20% more true ambiverts. Many world leaders, he says, are – surprisingly – introverts, but they have trained themselves to display extroverted qualities. Becoming comfortable with public speaking is an example that comes up often. “Barack Obama is an introvert. Justin Trudeau is too. He had to learn to act like an extrovert when necessary. And on weekends, he takes “introverted breaks” to cool off – long walks by himself.

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The term ambiversion was coined in the 1920s but barely used until about a decade ago. Susan Cain, author of the bestselling Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, mentions it briefly in her TED Talk (the irony of an extreme introvert forcing himself to do a TED Talk n is not lost on her). American psychology professor Adam Grant talks about the “ambivert advantage” in a 2013 study that identifies traits of top salespeople like knowing when to stop hard selling (extraversion) and listening to the customer (introversion).

Adapting your behavior can lead to more success and happiness

Western culture in the 20th century largely favored the extrovert – it was the age of celebrity, the cult of personality, open-plan offices and the clustering of desks in schools forcing team collaboration rather than individual thinking .

But times are changing. The pandemic has been a relatively good time to be introverted, especially for those who can work from home. However, says Moore, “two years later, even introverts crave human contact.” There is a balance to be found between the two ends of the scale. So here’s how to hone your ambivert skills…

Play the whole team at work

Have you ever worked in an office full of extroverts? I have and it’s exhausting (and I say that like a big mouth myself). At each meeting, we were all shouting at each other. I would consider that a win if I had to finish a sentence. The problem is that when a boss is building a team, he doesn’t tend to think about diversity in terms of personality types — after all, that’s not something you can check out in an interview. So we have to find the best way to interact with our colleagues.

It can be fruitful to think of it in terms of extroversion and introversion. “If you need to talk to your manager and he’s outgoing, you might just walk up to his office and pick him up for a chat,” Moore says. “But if they’re introverted, it might be best to email them asking if you can talk to them at a specific time later in the day. This gives them a clear timeline to ponder and reflect.

Being ambiverted is closely tied to empathy, says Annie Auerbach, author of Flex, a book about how to think, live and work flexibly on your own terms. “In meetings, read the room – if there’s a lull, you can throw out loads of ideas to get people going. But also understand that there may be people we talk about often who need space and time to talk. It’s about being empathetic.

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Be sure to take a mental break, though, Moore says, because acting like an extrovert when you’re introverted, and vice versa, is tiring. The professor is an extreme extrovert. While he was alone at home writing his book for hours, he would take “extroverted breaks” to recharge his batteries – strolling outside to chat with his neighbours.

Conversely, a friend, who led a team of hundreds, regularly looked at the barrel of days filled with hours of back-to-back meetings. Finding the constant stimulation exhausting, he cut each one-hour meeting to 50 minutes and spent those precious ten minutes alone, going out to buy a coffee or even hiding in the bathroom so as not to talk to anyone. Not the most fragrant way to freshen up, but it worked.

Learn to Compromise in Relationships

“Opposites attract”, as famous philosopher Paula Abdul sang. Moore agrees: “Introverts tend to marry extroverts and vice versa. To be a good spouse, you must consider the needs of the other person, while ensuring that your needs are also met.

“My wife is introverted and when she comes home from teaching she is exhausted,” he continues. “So if I want to go out on a Friday night, she probably won’t want to go to a busy place, but she will consider a quiet pub. So that’s the compromise. And at parties, I accept that she wants to come home early and she gives me permission to stay and work in the room.

It also makes sense to think like an ambivert if you’re dating. “One of the most powerful leadership skills today is listening – something an extrovert needs to consider. This is also good behavior when dating. It’s appealing when someone is listening intently,” Moore says. This also applies to platonic relationships – if you’re meeting an introverted friend, you’ll both likely have a better experience going out for a dinner date rather than a big party. “If you can change your behavior to align with theirs, that makes you a better person in terms of interpersonal relationships,” Moore says.

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Find your most productive time of day

Knowing how and when to best deploy your extroverted or introverted side can be helped by understanding your personal circadian rhythms, says Auerbach. “If you harness this, you know what time of day you will perform best in an extroverted or introverted environment.” If you’re a morning lark, for example, you’ll have more energy and drive in the morning — that’s when you can do your most collaborative and outgoing work. Then, when you slump in the afternoon, you can focus on routine work, email, and administration — tasks that save you from having to interact with other people too much.

The opposite tends to be true for night owls, who are more energetic later in the day. Plan your schedule around your energy level and you’ll likely get better performance.

You can also have a better month if you consider your menstrual cycle (if you still have one) and harness its ebbs and flows. “During the first week of your cycle, you tend to be more introverted, antisocial and want to withdraw – you may be able to adjust your schedule and social schedule to allow you to do this,” says Auerbach. . “Similarly, in the middle of the cycle, when your energy increases, you are more naturally extroverted.” So if you are having a party, now is your time. Just be understanding if you catch someone hiding in the toilet.

You are ambiverted if…

★ You like office parties, but you like going home. Ambiverts are like light switches – when ‘on’ they seem as sociable as anyone, but without warning they can suddenly crave silence.

★ You are not easily distracted. Ambiverts are better than extroverts at staying focused on various tasks.

★ You are flexible. Ambiverts know how to be extroverted when the situation calls for it and to listen attentively. It also makes them very persuasive.

★ Making decisions can be exhausting. For example, introverts might be able to recognize that choosing not to go to a party is the right decision for them, while ambiverts might spend more time debating what to do.


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