Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sociable Hermit


I have been called an introvert then an extrovert then an introvert then an ...

I find myself constantly being toggled between the alternate findings through various personality tests and from time to time, I get varying views from "lay observers" as well.

Why the opposing views and findings? I need to sort that out. First of all, let's get to the meanings of "introvert" and "extrovert".

Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. This is the opposite of an introvert who is energized by being alone.


Characteristics of an extrovert include:

- easily become bored without other people around
- talk with someone else rather than sit alone and think
- think as they speak rather than think before they speak (they think best when they are talking)
- enjoy social situations and even seek them out
- ability to make small talk and that makes them appear to be more socially adept
- interested in and concerned with the external world



On the other hand, an introvert:

- is concerned with the inner world of the mind
- enjoys thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings
- often avoids social situations because being around people drains their energy (even if they have good social skills)
- needs time alone to "recharge", after being with people for some length of time, such as at a party



I glance at the two sets of characteristics and I find it hard to pinpoint whether I am one or the other. I do see the traits of introversion and extroversion blended in me. Is this wrong?

Introversion and extroversion are often regarded as a single continuum of human personality. In other words, when you are one you cannot be the other. If that is the case, how do I explain the mixed-bag traits I carry?

I found the answer! It lies in a lesser known personality characteristic known as Ambiversion.


Ambiversion is a term used to describe people who fall more or less directly in the middle of the continuum and exhibit tendencies of both personality. An ambivert is normally comfortable with groups and enjoys social interaction, but also relishes time alone and away from the crowd. You can find a balanced introversive and extroversive tendencies in ambiverts and they are manifested at different times in response to different situations.

This is great! I always thought there must be a third choice, rather than forcefully fit a person into the stereotyped-mould of an introvert or an extrovert.

For a long time, I have been told that the world is made up of introverts and extroverts. Consequentially, people are categorised into one or the other, just like gender.
(Oh well, if you are one of the 500 participants at the 'Pink Dot Sg' last Saturday, you may oppose to my simplistic "Male-Or-Female" gender classification. Anyway, it is not my intention to discuss that issue here.)

I agree that the traditional "Introversion-Or-Extroversion" classification is perhaps overly simplistic. Going forward, we shall consider "Ambiversion" as well.



It is believed that the majority of people in Singapore are introverted. I do not know why. According to research findings based on the MBTI (the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), Singaporean managers are typically introverts, who are "careful with details, concentrates on the job to be done and thinks a lot before acting. He works well alone but needs to develop skills in working with others."

However, it is found that extroversion is more prevalent in the West.


In a study done last year in US, based on an extensive coverage of more than 600,000 questionnaires, a map of personality was drawn up for the US. The study looked at the geographical distribution among the 51 states on the prevalence of five personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness. A similar map has also been drawn up for Canada in a separate study.


From the study, we can see the distribution of people who are extroverted. I find the idea of "Geographical Mapping of Personality" a very refreshing way to profile human traits. On the surface, it may not immediately look useful. You may ask, "so what if North Dakota is ranked first on the Extroversion scale and so what if Mariland is at the bottom?"

May be it really doesn't matter much to most of us. However, for someone who is planning for a new market penetration strategy, such profiling may help them to differentiate their marketing stunts. Wouldn't that be something?

I would be very interested to see such a map for Singapore. I wonder if people in Tampines are more extroverted than people in Jurong? Is anyone planning to get a PhD in Psychology? Here's an idea.



For those who think that they are introverted and would like to glide up the scale of extroversion, here are some suggestions:

Overcome Your Mental Block First

1. Don't undervalue extroversion: Stop telling yourself "I'm born like that." Wake up to the fact that it is equally important to spend time alone and with people.

2. Don't undervalue social skills: Yes, I know you do not have them YET. Just like many other skills, they can be acquired.

3. Erase wrong images of extroverts: Perhaps, you may find some extroverts around you annoying and you do not wish to become like them. You need to refresh the image. Extroversion is not just about being blabbermouthed.

4. Don't think too highly of online socializing: If you think online socializing helps to compensate the introversion in you, you are wrong. On the contrary, it is believed that online social networking may produce introverts.

Once you have gotten rid of your mental block, you are ready to inject some extroversion in you.

Going from introvert to extrovert

1. Envision: Visualise the type of extroverts you would like to become. Build genuine relationship with intelligent extroverts and take your first step towards your vision.

2. Give rather than take: Think of relationship-building more in terms of giving and not in terms of what you can get. It this way, you will have an easier time attracting new friends into your life.

3. Play up your strength: Many introverts have no problem socializing online. In that virtual space, they demonstrate their strength at ease. Bring that strength of yours into the real world and play it up in face-to-face relationships.

4. Develop your social skill consciously: Make it your agenda to become better at building rapport, introducing yourself, keeping a conversation going and asking someone out on a date. Don't know how? Heard of Google before?

Many introverts have done it and so can you. You just have to honestly say "Yes" and the rest will follow. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert but it is better to also harness the other set of traits.

Finally, I know "Sociable Hermit" is an oxymoron but that is exactly what I think I am.

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2 comments:

Kuriakin said...

Hi Vanilla, I couldn't find a tagboard in your blog so lemme put my comments here. I guess I'm also an ambivert. Your blog is artistic, are you an artist?

Kuriakin Zeng

Sunny Sunberry said...

Yea, that's how I view myself...a sociable hermit.