Different people have different personality types. One key way we can put different personalities into categories is by using the terms, ‘introvert’, ‘extrovert’, and ‘ambivert’.
The difference between introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts
The labels ‘introvert’ (meaning inward-turning) and ‘extrovert’ (meaning outward-turning) were made popular by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s.
The simple difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts are energised by spending time alone and extroverts get their energy from spending time with other people, in social situations. Introverts and extroverts are on a spectrum, and this means that nobody is a total introvert and nobody is a total extrovert. For example, an introvert could act extroverted by talking through a problem out loud, and an extrovert could act introverted by wanting to communicate something in writing rather than by speaking.
‘Ambivert’ is a new term for people who are neither strongly introverts nor strongly extroverts. People who are ambiverts feel like they do not identify as either an introvert or extrovert, or they identify with either category at different times or in different types of situations. It is believed that most people are ambiverts.
Our personality type is genetic
Research shows that people are born introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts, since their genes determine their brain chemistry which determines their personality type. Extroverts’ brains are more driven by a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good when we pursue external rewards, such as social interaction. Introverts’ brains are more driven by a chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine motivates us to pursue internal rewards, like reading.
Myths about personality types
Introverts are unfriendly and uninterested in people.
Introverts tend to feel more comfortable connecting with people individually, or in small groups, rather than in large gatherings. However, they can still enjoy social interaction.
Extroverts are the most confident.
Confidence can look different for different personality types. An extrovert might express confidence in themselves by talking with people they have never met before. An introvert can equally express confidence in themselves by being alone in public.
Being shy is the same thing as being an introvert.
Being shy, which is having a fear of social judgement, is different from being an introvert, which means needing to be alone to gain energy. People with any personality type can be shy.
Ambiverts have the perfect balance between being an introvert and an extrovert.
Ambiverts are flexible to different situations, but being an ambivert can have its disadvantages. Ambiverts may feel confused about which part of their personality they should follow. They might not know whether they can best make use of their skills alone or with other people.
New experiences can change people over their lifetimes. If you are, for example, an extrovert who dislikes spending time alone, it is possible to learn to be comfortable being by yourself. Similarly, if you are an introvert who wants to be better at public speaking, it is possible to improve. In this way, we can always grow and develop.