- - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WASHINGTON- September 14, 2013 — Introverts have been marked by society as shy, reclusive, removed and economical in conversation. Conversely, extroverts have been regarded as super-outgoing, loud, back-slapping friendly and talkative. The stereotype is that introverts are less successful in life and extroverts make the best salespeople.  In reality, most of the descriptions do not apply to either personality.

An article in Psychology Today by Dr. Susan Newman points out that shyness is a behavior, not so much a personality trait, and extroverts can be shy too. The confusion comes in when an introvert claims to not be eager to be among people as often as extroverts. The term ‘shy’ is automatically applied.

Introverts need more ‘me’ time or time alone and away from the fray in order to recharge their personal batteries. Extroverts often draw energy from others.

Performers can be introverts, but extroverted performers draw energy from their audience. They can get worked into a frenzy with a responsive crowd.

In a recent interview with Washington Times Communities, Teresa Scanlan, the youngest Miss America in history when crowned in 2011, claimed to be an introvert. The giveaway was when she claimed to not always want to be around people and needed “down time alone” in order to energize.

This is a young woman who spent a year constantly in the public eye with international appearances and speaking engagements, yet she shined with apparent ease of presence, fluid communication and is a good listener as well. While this may seem a dichotomy of personality, it is not.

A comprehensive meta-analysis of 35 different studies of nearly 4, 000 salespersons combined with a recent study by Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management reports the difference between introverts and extroverts in a sales force is almost indistinguishable, with extroverts having a slight edge. The determining factor was sales performance with introverts generating sales revenue at a rate of $125 hourly and introverts $120.

Yet most people are neither introverts nor extraverts, but ambiverts.

Ambivert means to be socially comfortable and interactive yet relish “down time alone” more than extroverts and less than introverts. An ambivert can flow between both worlds with equal comfort but not remain in others company too long. Personality testing shows ambivert as in the middle of what is known as ‘research factors’ in psychometrics (psychological measurement) between introvert and extrovert.

 Ambivert sales people generated about $220 per hour, by the way.

A substantial clue to the differnces in introversion, extroversion and ambiversion is extroverts have a tendency to leave their homes and car doors unlocked whereas introverts button up. Ambiverts can leave their home and car doors unlocked and feel comfort in still being alone. However, if getting ‘me’ time requires buttoning up, this is what an ambivert will do.

A Louisiana State University study showed introverts as using Facebook more than extroverts but to fewer people and mostly for catching up or discussion with specific topics. Most of the folks on Facebook range from teens to mid-thirties but college students reign over every segment of society.

A new Swiss study at Zurich University dispels a widely popular and older Michigan State study that extroverts are happier using Facebook than introverts. According to the Zurich study, what the Michigan study failed to take into account were levels of happiness of Facebook users before using Facebook.

Extroverts have greater numbers of social contacts than introverts but the contacts can be mostly superficial. It is now thought extroverts place too much value in their superficial contacts believing they have friends all over the planet thus report being happier. Most extroverts were reporting greater levels of happiness than introverts to begin with.

However, this also may be the result of placing too much emphasis on superficial or acquaintance type face-to-face relationships.

Ambiverts, as it turns out, have a grip on who’s who in the social arena.

Most of us are ambiverts by personality. Those who lean toward introversion and extroversion are simply displaying different learned, cultural or religious type of developed behaviors.

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist.

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