Yang: A ‘New-ish’ Niche For Intro-Extrovert: Ambivert

By ELENA YANG
Los Alamos

Obviously this personality type isn’t new but the term, ambivert, is relatively new. Actually, the term has been around since 1920 but hasn’t been adopted widely; so, it’s new-ish. On a scale of 1 to 7, 1 being extreme introvert and 7 being extreme extrovert, the ambiverts score 3, 4, or 5. 

Most of us have the preconceived notion that extroverts are perfect for sales jobs, whereas introverts are likely to be borderline disasters when trying to persuade people to buy things. Hiring managers have largely followed this presumption as well. But as Daniel Pink (whose Ted talk on motivation – click here – is one of my all-time favorites on social science and management) stated in a recent Washington Post article (click here), “There’s almost no evidence it’s actually true.” Social scientists have done many studies examining how personality impacts sales performance, and have found that the correlation between extroverts and sale records comes close to zero, as in “.007!”

Once again, managers practice opposite to what the evidence indicates. 

In his article, Mr. Pink cited a study done by a Wharton professor comparing introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts sales records. You would be right if you chose introverts’ record to be lowest, but you’d be wrong to think extroverts would fare much better than introverts, even if you now know enough to suspect that ambiverts would come out on top.  

It turned that in this Wharton study (conducted by the youngest tenured professor, Adam Grant), while introverts did score the lowest sales, average $120/hour, extroverts only netted $125/hour. That is not “much better,” wouldn’t you agree? So, just how much better were ambiverts than the others? By 24 percent over extroverts, at an average of $155/hour! The best individual in this study, an ambivert, took in $208/hour. 

So, what’s so special about ambiverts? Nothing we don’t already know. They are the ones who are comfortable in keeping quiet when they need to be, and talk when they think the situation calls for it. Extroverts don’t always know when to shut up, and introverts are, by definition, uncomfortable speaking loudly and forcefully. 

For me, the interesting questions to contemplate are: 

  • Why do we always assume a bi-modal distribution of, just about every dimension? The bi-modal assumption takes on the “us vs. them” shade. Such is the erroneous premise for competitiveness, which turns out to be NOT good for innovation and creativity.
  • So, might these three categories fit onto a normal bell curve of our population distribution? Might ambiverts actually be at the peak of the bell curve, thus constitute the norm? Or, are these three categories likely to be three distinctive modes, as in “tri-modal?”
  • What are the implications for organizations/management if extroverts are not always in the driver’s seat?

Do you have verifiable evidence to answer any of these questions? Please share. 

A holiday long weekend is upon us, and I wish you safe travel, and a peaceful and joyful time with your beloved ones. If you plan to spend the holiday alone, enjoy your solitude. I will be off next week and return Nov. 30. Till then,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact: taso100@gmail.com

Editor’s note: Dr. Yang has a PhD in Management from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Wharton for a number of years, and consulted for small groups and small organizations and on cross-cultural issues. Her professional worldview comprises three pillars: 1. All organizations are social systems in which elements are inter-related. 2. To improve organizations, the focus should be on the positive dimensions on which to build. This philosophical foundation is Appreciative Inquiry. 3. Yang subscribes to the methodological perspective that she is part of the instrument from which to gain quality data from respondents, and with which to compare and contrast with others’ realities.

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