Are we like others? Do we exhibit the same traits as our peers, can we be put in a neat little box, or are we unique? Not to get too existential right at the start – but although you’ll find that all people have certain very specific traits that make them who they are, most of us can relate on some level. We all like to belong, to have a group that understands us and shares our interests. This is why you’ll see so many articles online detailing the good and the bad sides of being either an introvert or an extrovert. But what if I told you that you don’t have to identify with one or the other?
There are actually a lot of people out there who can exhibit some textbook introvert behavior, but at other times they seem like a true extrovert. We are often called ambiverts, but I’m not that big on names, so I just see myself as an in-betweener. It can be a bit weird when you can see eye to eye with both people who like to keep to themselves and people who are always out making friends, yet can’t truly be understood by those living either extreme. There are some things that only those who fall somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert will understand, things like…
1. We are only an extrovert as long as we need to break the monotony
If you live the life of an introvert (e.g. doing things on your own or being passive during conversations) and yet are not a true introvert, it’s easy to get into a rut. When I get into a routine I start to get nervous, and start planning fun activities with my friends and family. However, I’m only going to party for as long as I need to spend most of that extra energy, and then it’s back to the Fortress of Solitude.
2. We sometimes wish to be all by our lonesome, but still have plans for later
It’s easier than ever to just focus on yourself and have some quality alone time. Just one look at the online shopping statistics is enough to show you that a lot of people prefer sitting at their computer than driving around town and interacting with other people. While I personally enjoy having a quiet day to myself once a week – ordering food and doing my shopping online, listening to music, doing a little dance as I brew a fresh cup of coffee – I still make sure that I’ve got something interesting planed for tomorrow. I know I’ll recharge my batteries and want to have fun with others in a day or two.
3. We hear about introverts and extroverts, and realize that we can’t choose a side
Did you ever get the feeling that you might have a lot in common with a person, only to say to yourself “Nope, you lost me there buddy,” half way through the conversation? Well, that’s how I feel most of the time. I’ll be there talking to someone who seems to like some of the things I like, but then they go off the rails. Yes I might enjoy hiking – but camping out in the woods for several days with a group of people, followed by other “fun group activities” is really not my thing. At this point an introvert might chime in with “Yeah, it’s much more relaxing to go running by yourself and then read some good books”, at which point you’re just going to have to give up.
4. We are able to relate to nearly everyone, which is a double edged sword
Another fun thing about being able to relate to the vast majority of people (at least to some extent) is that nearly everyone you meet will want to be your friend. “Hey, you’re a really cool guy, we’ve got so much in common, let’s hang out” – they’ll all chirp happily, but the truth is you simply don’t want or need hundreds of friends. Your introvert side will start panicking and tell you to run for the hills, but your extrovert side will keep getting you into these situations because it’s fun to meet new people.
5. We don’t mind spending long hours learning something new or developing a skill
When not out meeting new people and making friends through no fault of my own, I tend to spend a decent amount of time hiding from the friends I do enjoy being around, simply because I want to focus on a hobby. You’d be surprised at all the things you can learn if you put in the time and the effort. Chances are you’ve lied about being sick so you can spend a couple of extra hours working on a DIY project or learning French.
6. We lose focus if we become too isolated
While there are times when I will happily go for a run or work on my skills instead of sitting around talking to people, if I go too long without human contact my brain tends to wonder off. I keep thinking about all the fun people are having without me, and I start to miss the long random conversations I have with my best friends over a couple of beers. At some point you can’t really get anything done, because it becomes impossible to focus on the task at hand, and you end up reaching for the phone.
7. We can sometimes spend 48 hours partying, then go back to quietly sipping coffee with friends
I’ve mentioned the need for partying that you get after spending a long time on your own, but the truth is that sometimes you just feel full of life and want to do as many exciting things as you can, all at once. Now that I’m a bit more mature and happily married, a nice vacation or a fun weekend out of town with the Missus and our daughter is enough, but when I was younger I’d party for two or three days straight. People who met me during the party phase tended to be surprised at how relaxed and quiet I was when they saw me mere days later.
8. We tend to be quite intuitive and can sense how people feel, but sometimes we just don’t care
Having spent a lot of time talking to a wide range of different people, I can tell you that being an ambivert makes it a lot easier to sense how people feel, as you can put yourself in their shoes for the most part. However, being able to understand others and being emphatic are not the same thing, and while the tendency is to make an effort to comfort people or hear them out, there are just some times where you can be focused entirely on yourself and not really care.
9. We catch ourselves sitting quietly and observing others every now and then
During those times when I feel especially introspective I often catch myself just kind of sitting there, with a bunch of friends who are chatting over a cup of coffee. It’s not as if you’re not listening to what is being said or that you’re in a bad mood, it’s just that you get contemplative and start observing the whole situation like an outsider gathering information. You can feel warm and cozy in your own head, and really not have much to say, although you actually enjoy the company.
10. We can also get excited and become the life of the party in the right circumstances
It always amazed me how fast I could go from quiet and somewhat distracted to chatty and witty when the mood struck. For me it was always about having the right kind of people around, and I usually needed someone to give me a push in the right direction by bringing up a topic I am passionate about. It is a wonderful transformation, but that euphoric feeling can dye down slowly if there is no-one to keep feeding the fire.
11. We sometimes spend time among people we don’t know, and we tend to get really shy
You see, one of the biggest triggers that pushes most ambiverts into “fun and talkative mode” is the presence of good friends. As long as you have someone you know well with you, you can relax because you know you can switch between casually talking to a friend and telling a few interesting stories to a few people that were part of the extended group. However, once you’re among strangers, you become shy and somewhat clumsy.
12. We will still get quite talkative among good friends
Ah, those rare moments of pure bliss when you get a little drunk with a few good friends and start blabbing about random little things, jumping from topic to topic and barely even stopping for breath. These are great opportunities for those who only know you as the quiet and mysterious one to see your other side.
13. We have clear spikes and lulls in our activity levels throughout the week
If my life was presented in graph form, it would probably look something like the lines on a heart monitor. Oh sure, there are strong heartbeats in there, and during those periods we are larger than life. Our phone won’t stop ringing, we keep looking for people to hang out with on social media and there is always someone at our house having a coffee or a beer. However, there is a noticeable silence in between beats, with plenty of missed calls and quiet nights in front of the TV with significant others.
14. We surprise our close friends when they see us being reserved during social occasions
Because of all that talking that we ambiverts tend to do around close friends, they envision us as a social butterfly. They think that we are talkative and relaxed in all other occasions, because that is what they have experience with. My friends would experience shock and confusion when they saw me, the quirky chatty guy, just smiling politely and exchanging a few words here and there during big social gatherings.
15. We often find that we just want to leave a party and spend the rest of the night alone
This one is very difficult to explain to people – I actually like hanging out with friends and a bunch of people I don’t know, as long as I am in a good mood and the atmosphere is stimulating. I have a specific taste and there are several things that I find fun, and if none of these elements is present then I simply leave. It might have been a good party at the start, but it’s not uncommon for me to start thinking that I’d have a much better time watching a movie at home or scrolling around social media.
16. We find it’s easy to get confused about what we really want
Given the fact that ambiverts can be all over the place when it comes to their energy levels and general mood, we often find ourselves confused about what we want. I’ve had friends get mad at me because they thought I was messing with them when I would change my mind about whether I wanted to go out about 6-7 times in 10 minutes. The switch between introvert and extrovert is not always a smooth and easy one, and it pays to have patient and understanding friends.
17. We like to talk for hours on some subjects, but small talk bores us out of our mind
I’ve already mentioned that my friends tend to see me as a chatty person, and I’ve been known to be quite interesting when meeting new people if the conversation steers towards something I find interesting – however simple social interactions where people keep up the pretense that they respect and enjoy each other’s company can drive you mad. I never liked talking about the weather or asking arbitrary questions like “How’s the wife?” or “So, what have you been up to?” just to kill the time or because I bumped into someone I haven’t seen in a while in the street.
18. We never feel truly bored, but we can get a bit lonely at times
I’ll be the first one to say that you can be your own company as long as you have a little bit of imagination, a sense of humor and a positive attitude. However, while I won’t necessarily run out of things to do on my own or with a few close friends, I can get definitely get lonely and start missing the chatter and laughter you get with a group. This is why we can’t stay passive and closed in our own heads for too long.
19. We don’t spend too much time socializing because it can drain our mental energy
Just as sitting around the house and going to the same few coffee shops with one or two close friends tends to eventually push ambiverts into a more active phase, so too does being overly friendly, going to all the big events and being around other people on a daily basis cause us to eventually go into hibernation. It’s all about a balance between being open to the world and having some privacy, and too much human contact can be rather mentally exhausting. If I’m energetic and ready to hit the town one day, and then I keep giving excuses so I can stay at home the next, it’s not because I don’t like a person very much – I just need a break from people in general every now and again.
20. We struggle to find a partner that can get used to both sides of our character
With all these complex emotions, mood changes and character traits from both ends of the spectrum, it can be difficult to pin an ambivert down. What I found most challenging is the fact that when I start dating someone it can be quite the challenge for them to get used to both sides of my emotional coin. Again, I’ve been lucky enough to find myself a beautiful wife who, being an ambivert herself and as emotional and stubborn as I am, learned to understand me. It can take some time before you find someone you can be yourself around, both when you feel like closing up and staying silent, and when you want to sing at the top of your lungs, act silly or go out and have fun.
As an ambivert you’ll go between wanting nothing more than to be left alone and have limited interaction with others, and being around plenty of people and having a great time. People will find it weird, some may get a bit frustrated, but on the plus side you get the best of both worlds and may even have an edge when it comes to achieving success, so just be honest to yourself about who you are and enjoy the ride.
Featured photo credit: Hipster man with a fixie bike and smartphone in a park outdoors via shutterstock.com