People who know me think I’m outgoing. For example, at my best friend’s wedding, her grandmother sarcastically joked, “We really need to do something about your shyness,” meaning, she thought I wasn’t at all shy, because I was doing something goofy. I know now that this isn’t unique to me, but that used to catch me off guard – when people would mistake me for an extrovert.
At the same time, I kind of “got it.” When I know you, I am quite silly, loquacious, and even loud at times. But in a setting where I don’t know many people, I’m typically reserved. I now know I can sometimes act like an extrovert and sometimes act like an introvert. I suppose I usually feel like an introvert, but I’ve never really ‘taken sides.’
I was therefore delighted when I heard, earlier this year, the term “ambivert.” I thought, “Yes! That’s where I fit in!!” I was relieved to hear I wasn’t alone in landing somewhere in between the intro- and extro- “vert” categories. But when I thought about it some more, I decided I didn’t really like it. Here’s why.
Technically, the word is accurate, as the prefix “ambi” comes from a Latin word that means “both, on both sides” (and also “around, round about”). Therefore, “ambivert” would simply mean a little of both or able to exhibit both. So far, so good.
However, to me, it implies that an “ambivert” can choose between being intro- and extroverted. Other words we use imply the ability to shift at will. For example, the perk of being an ambidextrous pitcher is that he or she can throw the ball with either hand, with equal skill, and he or she can decide which hand to use, depending upon who’s up to bat.
But I don’t decide to be introverted in “this” situation and extroverted in “that” situation. It’s not a choice – I can’t just pick a “vert” like a pitcher can pick an arm. Even in situations where I’d like to choose to be an extrovert, I can’t just turn it on.
For example, let’s say I have two events to attend. They’re both dress-up charity functions with a lot of people I don’t know. At one of these, I might be able to introduce myself and chat up some people. In fact, I can occasionally “work the room.” But at the second function, you might find me hiding in the bathroom or sneaking out to the parking lot to call a friend for a break from the action. I get shy, overwhelmed, and even intimidated about interacting with people.
And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I never know which of my “verts” is going to show up. I’ve tried to make predictions, like, “Well, I’m in a good mood today, so I can be extroverted at the meeting tonight.” Or, “Today’s event will draw a really friendly crowd, so I’ll be able to easily approach people.” I’ll expect to be feeling extrovert-y, but end up standing in the corner with my wine and bruschetta.
Even the flip side of can be true. For example, if I’d had a bad day, I’ll expect to be feeling and acting more introverted, yet I’ll manage to be highly sociable in spite of it.
Basically, it’s a total crapshoot.
I’d like to know what my fellow ambiverts out there think about the label.
Does it suit you? Are YOU more easily able to move from one side to the other than I am?
Do you flip from one to the other based on mood or context, or is it more of a surprise to you as it is to anyone?
Can you think of a better term for it?
(I can only come up with crazy things like “unpredictavert” or “mercuriavert“!)
In the final analysis, I suppose I’m happy that I can strike the balance between extroversion and introversion and tap into the strengths of each type. I just wish I had more control over it.