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Ambivert, "Ambiversion;" Is That A Thing?

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.

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Ambivert?

There are people who refer to themselves as "ambiverts."

By this they mean that they are part introvert, part extrovert; sometimes "shy," and sometimes "outgoing." They are sometimes gregarious and behave like the "social butterfly," as it were, and sometimes they "just want to be alone."

If you ask me [Is "ambivert" a thing?], I would say, short answer: No. In fact, I will attempt to persuade you that such a thing is mathematically impossible.

Let's begin by clarifying some terms.

Introvert

  • This word does not mean "shy." In fact, it may be fair to say that the concept of "shyness," --- to the extent that it really exists --- is not quite what a lot of people think it is --- but one thing at a time.

But what do we mean by "shy?" What is that?

To be "shy," we believe, is to be self-conscious and nervous around "people." When thrust into a situation in which "there are a lot of people around," the shy person feels compelled to retreat into the sanctuary of solitude.

Now, "shyness," then, as we use the term, refers to one's disposition toward "people," or "a lot of people."

There are those mbti devotees who may say that one is an introvert because he "gets his energy by being alone." This can be "true" to a certain extent, but strictly speaking, total solitude is not always necessary; but in another sense, this characteristic is misleading. It is misleading because, at best, it is a half-truth.

Extrovert

  • This word does not necessarily mean "outgoing," in the sense that one is necessarily people-social, let's say. In fact, there are those extroverts whose test results mistakenly have them labelled as introverts.
  • That is to say, there are some extroverts, who are true extroverts, but are, nevertheless, not people-social, or what we commonly refer to as "shy."
  • There are some introverts, who are true introverts, but are, nevertheless, quite people-social, or what we commonly refer to as "outgoing."


You are probably thinking to yourself: "Lucy, you have some (ex) 'plainin' to do!"

I am indebted to the crew at personalityhacker.com, headed by Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge, for the understanding I am about to present.

I said before that it is mathematically impossible to be an "ambivert."

How so?

The question is this: Which is the 'real' world to you: the internal world of contemplation or the external world of sensory experience and objective reality?

All people need to have a relationship to both the inner and outer worlds. The question is: which realm is the real world to you? A better way to put that is: Which realm, the inner or outer, is your reference point?

What the introvert does is check to see whether and to what extent the external world matches his interior model of it; and then he "extroverts" the results of his calculations. In this way, the introvert becomes, temporarily, "extroverted."

What the extrovert does is act upon the outside world and internally process the results of the interaction. In this way, the extrovert becomes, temporarily, "introverted."

Before we go any further, I should tell you that I am speaking from the perspective of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Typing Indicator system, which is based on the work of Carl Jung.

In this system, each of the sixteen personality types are given a four-letter code, which refers to how you learn information and make decisions. There are eight introvert types and eight extrovert types.

I, for example, am an INFJ, that's introverted, intuitive, feeling, judger.

Each type has, what is called, a "cognitive stack" of functions. This refers to the way your mind works. There are a total of eight functions in the system: Ni (introverted intuition); Ne (extroverted intuition); Si (introverted sensing); Se (extroverted sensing); Fi (introverted feeling); Fe (extroverted feeling); Ti (introverted thinking); and Te (extroverted thinking).

My INFJ "cognitive stack" goes like this

  1. Ni: introverted intuition
  2. Fe: extroverted feeling
  3. Ti: introverted thinking
  4. Se: extroverted sensing

The first function is your dominant function. It is the mental operation that you do best. In fact, it's fair to say that your dominant function is, in a way, quintessentially "YOU."

The dominant function is your primary modality of existing in the world, you might say.

If you are an introvert, your first function, which is your dominant function --- and quintessentially "YOU" --- is always introverted.

If you are an extrovert, your first function, which is your dominant function --- and quintessentially "YOU" --- is always extroverted.


What I'm going to do now is define the eight functions.

This will become important later, as I explain precisely why "shyness" and "introversion" are not always synonymous or co-existing; as well as how it is that shyness can also, sometimes, be paired with extroversion.

  1. Ni: introverted intuition. "Intuition," generally, in the Meyers-Briggs system, as interpreted for us by Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge of Personality Hacker --- is about "advanced pattern recognition." Intuition is a learning style that is comfortable with the abstract and the speculative. It is about what information means rather than, strictly speaking, its content. Introverted Intuition, then, works internally within the mind, in an "introverted" way, in order to understand the world we live in.
  2. Ne: extroverted intuition. The faculty of intuition is projected outward onto the world. It is about "getting the world to reveal itself to you" by messing with it, flipping switches and toggles, to see what happens. If "introverted intuition" asks (why?), "extroverted intuition" asks (what if?). If extroverted intuition is about "thinking outside the box," then introverted intuition is about "thinking about the box."
  3. Fe: extroverted feeling. "Intuition" is a learning style; "feeling" is a decision-making faculty. Extroverted feeling, then, is concerned with making decisions based on "what gets EVERYBODY'S needs met." Caring is most exuded through generalized concern about the welfare of groups of people, one might say.
  4. Fi: introverted feeling. This is the feeling decision-making style turned inward. What this means is that the introverted feeling user is concerned with making sure everything he does lines up with his own internally preconceived set of values. He is concerned with personal authenticity, with being personally genuine and "real," as it were.
  5. Ti: introverted thinking. This is the other decision-making process, which, simplistically, is sometimes thought of as the "opposite" of the feeling process. Introverted thinking is about developing and maintaining an internalized system of logical consistency with respect to any incoming ideas and concepts.
  6. Te: extroverted thinking. This is a decision-making process that is about strategic planning. Extroverted thinking concerns the drawing together of time, money, personnel, and other resources, in the most efficient way, to get things done.
  7. Si: introverted sensing. This is the other learning style. Sensing, in general, unlike intuition, is about working with information that is practical, tactile, and concretely verifiable. Sensors, in general, are not as comfortable with abstract speculation, in the way that intuitives are. Introverted sensing, then, is about collecting information and relating it to information collected in the past --- as a way of determining the desirability, logical soundness, practicality, and so forth, of the latter. Introverted sensing wants to build on top of tradition in order to maintain all of the previously established competence, beauty, justice, and so forth of previously established systems.
  8. Se: extroverted sensing. This function is concerned with taking in information and other stimuli through the five senses; it is firmly rooted in the "here and now." One can say that extroverted sensing is the most "stop and smell the rose" of all the eight functions. It is the most purely "real world," and "real-time" experiential of the eight functions.

Now then, in the so-called "cognitive stack" of four functions, the hierarchy is as follows:

1. The first function is the thing you do best. This is your primary dominant function, which is, in a sense, quintessentially "YOU."

2. The second function is the mental operation that you do second best. It is your "auxiliary," if you want to get technical about it.

3. The third function, your "tertiary," if you prefer, is the cognitive function that you execute third best.

4. The fourth function in your cognitive stack is the mental operation that you are least competent in executing. It is your weakest function.

Also, whether one is an introvert or extrovert, two of the functions in your cognitive stack are always extroverted, and two of your functions are always introverted. This is because, again, we all, whether introverted or extroverted, require both an internal and external existence.

The question one should ask himself, to determine whether he is an introvert or extrovert is this: Do you live in an inside-out (introvert) way or in an outside-in (extrovert) way? I will come back to this point.

Before I became acquainted with mbti doctrine, I would have described myself as a social counterpuncher, as an introvert. I would have made reference to vampire lore as an example: Vampires, as you know, are not able to enter a premises without an invitation [That's what I derived from the documentaries on vampires: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel].

Once invited in, the blood-sucker makes himself at home, naturally.

What I have come to believe, these days, is that I, along with all introvert types, are built to absorb and redirect social stimulus. For example, as an INFJ, with my cognitive stack the way it is, I tend to absorb social stimulus through my primary dominant function, which is Ni, introverted intuition; and I redirect it through my secondary or auxiliary function, Fe, which is extroverted feeling.

I believe that all introverted types absorb social stimulus through the primary dominant function and "extrovert" it, or go into "extrovert mode" through the secondary function.

Think of it like one of those wireless, Bluetooth speakers. When you first take it out of the box (and every time you first use it each day), you must plug it into a wall socket to charge (This usually takes about 2 hours).

While it is charging, you might say that the device is in "introvert mode." Once it is charged, it is prepared to play music from your nearby phone or other device; when the speaker is doing this, it is fair to say that the device is in its "extrovert mode."

I, and I believe my fellow introverts, are no different.

As an introvert type, I only go into my extrovert mode if I have received some kind of "charge" via my Ni --- something to give my introverted intuition to "chew on," as it were. Once that is done, depending upon the circumstances, I am then prepared to go into "extrovert mode," sending my interpretation of the situation back into the world.

Does that make sense?

I then remain in "extrovert mode," with an intensity and duration, which depends on the "strength" of the original charge. I might remain in "extrovert mode" for a minute, an hour, or several weeks.

I should also say that my "extrovert mode" depends upon the environment. Is it a place I am familiar with and feel at ease in? Or, am I in a setting that is new and unfamiliar? How do I feel about the relative negativity or positivity of the new environment?

If I find myself in an unfamiliar environment, I will usually have to "reset," as it were. My primary function must be given something to work with, which is readily translatable to the particular situation I find myself in, in order for me to be able to go into "extrovert mode."

Or, I may need a few visits to the new environment, in order to take the measure of things; and perhaps, then, I can reset myself and "charge up" for my next visit to X venue.

Is all of that sensible?

I would put it to you, then, that this need for an activating charge to put the introvert into "extrovert mode," is the reason that many in the personality profiling community refer to the "energy level" of introverts.

Extroverts are different. Each extrovert type is built to project social stimulus onto the world and then internally process the result. They do the former through their primary dominant function; and the latter through their secondary auxiliary function.

The extrovert, then, begins in "extrovert mode," which is his dominant state. He then goes into "introvert mode," to think about what happened. Think of the operation of an extrovert like that of an Army unit carrying out a mission.

After the mission is done and everybody (all the survivors) have returned to base, the Captain will probably write out a "mission report." They executed the mission first and then evaluated its effectiveness.

In this way, then, the extrovert can be said to live life in an outside-in way.

Are you a 'J' or a 'P'?

Let us refer to what we have been talking about as the "energy exchange rate" of introverts and extroverts.

Hold that thought!

What does it mean if you have a 'J' or 'P' at the end of the four-letter code for your personality type? As the Personality Hacker crew say, it is NOT about Js being orderly and precise and Ps being disorganized and sloppy --- this is the simplistic understanding.

Both Js and Ps like order. But the difference is where they like order and control to be located: in the external world or internal world.

If you are a 'J,' whether introvert or extrovert, you are a person who is driven to simplify the external world so that you can have the "real estate" to work with maximum creative flexibility in your interior landscape.

If you are a 'P,' whether introvert or extrovert, you are a person who is driven to simplify your internal world so that you can have the freedom to work with maximum creative flexibility in the external landscape of concrete reality.

I really like the way Michael Pierce puts it: He says that a 'J' will tend to be relatively "aggressive" toward the external world and "receptive" to the inner world experience.

How does all of this work?

Let's look at the INFJ (introvert, intuitive-learning-style, feeling, judger) as compared to the INFP (introvert, intuitive, feeling, perceiver).

INFJ

1. Ni (introverted intuition)

2. Fe (extroverted feeling)

3. Ti (introverted thinking)

4. Se (extroverted sensing)

INFP

1. Fi (introverted feeling)

2. Ne (extroverted intuition)

3. Si (introverted sensing)

4. Ti (introverted thinking)

Both the INFJ and INFP are, of course, introverts.

But I would argue that the 'J' in the INFJ code makes this type even more of an introvert than the INFP. This is because the 'J' in the INFJ's code makes him want to simplify the external world so that he can have the freedom to act with maximum creative flexibility in his Ni, which is an inherently streamlining and synthesizing function.

Furthermore, the INFJ's secondary Fe makes him want to communicate the results of his ruminating mind with tact and sensitivity to the feelings of others; in other words, the Ni-Fe axis is not about "honesty at all costs," "letting the chips fall where they may" function.

Tact and sensitivity are inherently externally limiting behaviors since the INFJ usually wants to avoid what he sees as unnecessary conflict and bad feelings, because dealing with that draws energy from his preferred contemplative Ni, and the cool rationality of his Ni-Ti axis or "loop."

The 'P' in the INFP, then, has the opposite effect on this INF-type. The 'P' pulls the INFP more quickly and deeper into the external world than the 'J' of the INFJ. The Fi (introverted feeling) that the INFP leads with is inherently much less concerned the feelings of others, and more interested in personal emotional integrity.

Fi combined with the inherently expansive Ne (extroverted intuition) function serves to narrow the options of the interior landscape, while opening up, complicating the external world.

The Fi-Ne axis, then, is inherently more "extroverted" than the Ni-Fe axis, which results in a particular INF-type being a 'P' and the other being a 'J.'

However, that does not make the INFP an "ambivert."

The INFP is still an introvert just like the INFJ. Regarding social stimulus, the both absorb it through their primary dominant function --- Fi (introverted feeling) for the INFP and Ni (introverted intuition) for the INFJ --- and redirect it or "extrovert" it through their secondary auxiliary function --- Fe (extroverted feeling) for the INFJ and Ne (extroverted intuition) for the INFP.

Once their dominant function is "charged up," so to speak, they both go into "extrovert mode" until that charge runs out. Because of the 'P,' the INFP probably charges up and converts to extrovert mode more quickly than the INFJ, because the 'P' pulls the INFP into the outer world and the 'J' pushed the INFJ into the internal world of contemplation.

The INFP, then, despite her introversion, nevertheless, wants to be able to act with maximum creative flexibility in the external world; and the INFJ is more intensely introverted because of the 'J' factor in his code.

Let's do two more: ISTP and ENTJ

The ISTP (introvert, sensing-learning-style, thinking, perceiver) and the ENTJ (extrovert, intuitive-learning-style, thinking, judger)

Given what we now know about the 'P' and 'J' factors in the MBTI system, I think it is fair to say that the 'P' is an "extrovert-ing" factor in the ISTP and that the 'J' is an "introvert-ing" factor in the ENTJ; or, perhaps, rather that the first two functions of each type rather naturally manifests a 'P' or 'J' factor in the personality.

ISTP

1. Ti (introverted thinking)

2. Se (extroverted sensing)

3. Ni (introverted intuition)

4. Fe (extroverted feeling)

ENTJ

1. Te (extroverted thinking)

2. Ni (introverted intuition)

3. Se (extroverted sensing)

4. Fi (introverted feeling)

Now then, the ISTP is an introvert, with the "extroverting" factor of the P in his make-up.

The Ti (introverted thinking) is about the subjective, internal regulation of a system of logical analysis. It is combined with Se (extroverted sensing), which is the most purely, externally experiential of all of the eight functions.

The 'P' makes this introvert want to make short work of any interior mental chaos he may be experiencing, so that he has more energy to act with maximum creative flexibility in the outside world.

For introverted thinking, something either "makes sense" or it doesn't. Considered in that light, then, one might say that of all of the introverted functions, Ti is the least fussy, if you will. This inherent low level of fussiness of introverted thinking has and "extroverting" tendency, particularly when paired with the most purely experiential of the extroverted functions, Se (extroverted sensing).

As for the ENTJ, the 'J' factor is an "introverting" force upon this extrovert.

Let's break it down.

The first, dominant function, which makes the ENTJ an extrovert, is Te (extroverted thinking). Extroverted thinking is concerned with the external world; but Te is about managing people, money, time, and other resources to shape reality according to the wishes of the ENTJ, in order to accomplish tasks, carry out projects, and bring about specific outcomes.

Te is different from Se, in that the latter, Se, is purely experiential, in fact the most purely experiential of all of the eight functions. Te seeks to sculpt the outer world to suit her purposes; and this means that the primary, dominant Te-user must apply her imagination to formulate some idea as to how she is going to do this.

In other words, Te (extroverted thinking) has an inherent "introverting" tendency. Combined with Ni (introverted intuition) in the second position, the modifying 'J' element in this ENT type becomes understandable.

Now, I said before that not all extroverts have to be necessarily gregarious, or people-social, as I put it. Considering the case of the ENTJ, here, dominant Te is about resource management. People are just one element of the external world.

Let's finish this!

  • There are only two realms: Your Experience of the Outer World and Your Inner World.
  • The issue which is determinant of extroversion and introversion is this: Do you live in an inside-out way of the introvert, or the outside-in way of the extrovert? There is no third way possible.
  • Socially introverts are built to absorb and redirect social stimulus, through the introverted dominant function and the secondary auxiliary function, respectively.
  • Extroverts are built to project social stimulus through the extroverted dominant function and to process the results of this interaction through their secondary auxiliary function, respectively.
  • Introverts operate on secondary "extrovert mode" for as long as the force of the "charge" she gets to her primary dominant introverted function.
  • Extroverts operate on secondary "introvert mode" for as long as the results of the interaction, they initiated through their dominant function gives their secondary auxiliary, introverted function "food for thought," as it were. In other words, the extrovert might find himself in secondary introvert mode for as long as the "meal" lasts.
  • The 'P' and 'J' factors in each personality code are either: merely "extroverting" and "introverting" factors, respectively; or the manifestation of a natural, subterranean, seemingly opposite "extroverting" or "introverting" pull on either the extrovert or introvert type.
  • However, with all of that said, the 'P' does not make an introvert an extrovert, or an "ambivert." The 'J' does not make an extrovert and introvert, or "ambivert."

Hope that helps! Thank you for reading!

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