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Associate professor, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University

It is well-established that introverts need quiet breaks so that they can recharge their batteries in solitude. And extroverts equally need social breaks to fill up their emotional tanks. But what about ambiverts? What kind of breaks do they take? If introverts and extroverts get to recharge, isn’t it fair that ambiverts get the chance too?

Ambiverts, for those not familiar with the term, are people that fit into a category between introverts and extroverts on the introversion to extroversion continuum. A defining characteristic is that they are capable of manifesting both types of behaviour, depending on what the task they have at hand requires of them. So, they have the strengths of both introverts and extroverts. When I first heard about ambiverts, I felt that this was a bit unfair. I was under the impression that they had the best of both worlds, and as such that they were simply better people than my fellow extroverts or introverts. Yet, nothing is so black and white.

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I interviewed more than 50 ambiverts to try and learn about the weaknesses that came with such an adaptable personality type. Based on this research, I believe that I can establish two weaknesses. First, ambiverts often confuse other people with their changing levels of engagement. It is hard to gauge intent and intimacy when someone sometimes acts on the more reclusive tendencies of an introvert, and other times displays the energetic connections that come with the personality traits of an extrovert. It is as though they are chameleons, making it difficult to predict how they are going to act. Many people, understandably, find this perplexing. The other weakness, and this is not really a material weakness, is that ambiverts don’t manifest the strengths of introversion or extroversion to the degree that strong introverts or extroverts do. They may present the same patterns of engagement, but it can be far less pronounced than those on either end of the continuum.

From our interviews, it seems fairly clear that the kind of breaks ambiverts take are a result of having overused one end of the continuum, enticing them to swing back to the other side of the pendulum in an effort to find balance. That is, when an ambivert has acted like an introvert for some time, they need to recharge their social batteries by taking what we would typically describe as an extrovert break. After being alone, they crave social stimulation. On the other end, when they have acted like an extrovert for some length of time, they may need to take an introvert break. Instead of talking and connecting, they may feel the need to have quiet time by themselves to recharge. Interestingly enough, our informants suggest that the length of the break would typically be less than that which the introvert or the extrovert may need to recharge. Ambiverts return to stasis more rapidly.

So, if you happen to manage an ambivert, recognize that breaks are useful to make up for the overuse of one side of their personality. Chances are, after a long time of acting like an introvert or an extrovert, they could need a moment to rebalance. While it may well be different than what you do as an introvert or extrovert, it makes perfectly good sense.

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