IT’S NO COINCIDENCE THAT a search for the word ‘introvert’ in Amazon.com results in 527 titles, whereas a search with the word ‘extrovert’ leads to only 236 books. Introverts, by definition, enjoy time to themselves and therefore have the time to write a book in the first place. What is also clear from the book titles that an Amazon search yields is that introverts are seen as the underdog; the quiet achievers in life; misunderstood. Extroverts, on the other hand, are bulls in a china shop; oversized children who are a danger to themselves. They run the world, and dominate the dinner party conversation. In a Hollywood teen flick the introvert would be the hero who gets the girl, eventually. The extrovert, or jock, would get the egg on his face.
In a Hollywood teen flick the introvert would be the hero who gets the girl, eventually
Of course I am exaggerating, significantly. Life isn’t this black and white. In fact, according to American author, Daniel H. Pink, there’s quite a lot of grey. “Some of us are heavy introverts. Some of us are stalwart extroverts. But the vast majority of us are ambiverts.” Pink is a bestselling author, whose books covering the human psyche, have been read by millions. This most recent quote appeared in a January article in the Washington Post. But ‘ambiverts’ is not a construct of Pink. The term was first coined by social scientists in the 1920s, who were labelling people who are neither extremely introverted nor extremely extroverted.
Pink’s article also helped to correct the myth, that extroverts are more successful than introverts in sales. Pink writes that “when social scientists have examined the relationship between extroverted personalities and sales success — that is, how often the cash register rings — they’ve found the link to be, at best, flimsy.” Being an extrovert in sales has no benefit. So does this mean that the opposite is true? No. In studies introverts performed even worse than extroverts. So what choice do we have? Pink suggests the ‘ambivert’.
Which ‘-vert’ Are You?
Before discussing the difference between ambiverts, extroverts and introverts it’s important to define each.
“An ambivert is neither extremely introverted, nor extremely extroverted,” says Pink. “They’re not quiet, but they’re not loud. They know how to assert themselves, but they’re not pushy.” Sounds confusing. Ambiverts love to be with people one moment and then another moment, well, not. Energy levels fluctuate, and so ambiverts’ behaviour can shift accordingly. The good, or bad news, is that according to Pink most of us fall into this category.
An ambivert is neither extremely introverted, nor extremely extroverted,” says Pink.
Extoverts seem to function best and enjoy life more when they are not alone but with others. They like to party more than they like to read or write. They are usually the ones who are the life of the party, but they are often the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, because their interests are wide, but not deep.
Introverts are the polar opposite, requiring solitude to mull things over, prefer jobs where they can work alone and concentrate, and don’t like small talk. They prefer a small gathering of friends rather than big parties. They like to curl up with a book more than they like going out.
Which Jobs For Which ‘-vert’?
So when it comes to sales, it’s best to be in the middle. Ambiverts, says Pink referring to Grant’s study, earned an average hourly revenue of 155 USD, beating extroverts by 24%. The reason? “Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little. They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities. Sometimes they care too deeply about being liked and not enough about getting tough things done,” says Pink.
Ambiverts, says Pink referring to Grant’s study, earned an average hourly revenue of 155 USD, beating extroverts by 24%
But what about the rest of us? HR, admin, finance and the like? For these roles, the same data that Pink uses to praise ambiverts suggests that introverts are best. Susan Cain, writing for The Atlantic, quotes William McKnight, 3M’s CEO during the 1930s and ‘40s, “Hire good people and leave them alone.” In her article, Cain highlights that introverts are persistent – “give them a difficult puzzle to solve, and they’ll analyse it before diving in, then work at it diligently.” Cain also adds that introverts are less likely to take risks, and therefore less likely to have accidents.
But that lack of risk can also be a drawback. A February 2013 University of Portsmouth, UK, study has reported that outgoing people in a good mood are significantly more creative than people who keep to themselves, according to The Independent. Dr Lorenzo Stafford discovered that extrovert people in a good mood are the most creative thinkers because they have more of the “happiness chemical”, called dopamine. The study found that introverts are no more creative, whether they are in a good or neutral mood. Extroverts could therefore be better suited to creative and problem solving roles, such as R&D and marketing.
What About Our Leaders?
Susan Cain, of The Atlantic, thinks “Today’s leaders need to perform traditional tasks, like making speeches, rallying troops, and setting goals. But they also need to feel in their bones what innovation means. If the same person can’t do all these things at once – and let’s face it: how many people are both social and solitary, goal-oriented and wildly original? – we should be thinking more about leadership-sharing, where two people divide leadership tasks according to their natural strengths and talents. One example of this model is introverted ‘product visionary’ Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and the extroverted ‘people person’ COO Sheryl Sandberg.”