The ambivert advantage

I’m currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingIt’s making me realize my personality is a fairly even split of introversion and extroversion; I suppose that makes me an “ambivert”, and I’m sure most people are more split than they assume.

Most people who know me wouldn’t hesitate to label me an extrovert. I’m sure I come across publicly as gregarious and not at all spotlight-averse.

But I prefer alone time over group time. A great lunch for me is lunch by myself with something good to read. I tend to choose staying in over going out and one-on-one conversation rather than a dinner party with a crowd. But if I’m at a dinner party, I can, if I choose, be engaging and even entertaining. (I’m hilarious, right friends?) I don’t enjoy small talk, but I can hold my own

My two primary peak experiences when I work, though, are seemingly at opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

I fall into a sort of creative bliss when working alone and getting into a flow state where I lose track of time and ideas appear and possibilities bubble up.

But I get a different kind of high that’s just as satisfying when I stand on a stage and connect with an audience, often about the ideas that came about in that isolated flow state. That peak on-stage experience is also a flow state. 

I’m most creative alone after having some time to get into a zone. I’m most alive when I’m in front of an audience sharing what I crafted in that alone time. 

I had a colleague in my first career when I was a staff member on Capitol Hill who regularly wanted to pull up a chair next to me so we could write together. That did not work. And I finally told him just to send me his ideas, and I would synthesize them on my own.

I’ve learned to structure my time around what works best for me. I don’t seek out lunch appointments or group work. I make sure to get plenty of down time before and after presentations. I value long stretches of quiet time.

Know yourself. Look back on your peak moments, your most productive environments, and your most satisfying states. Determine how best to bolster your strengths and hack your personality to more completely fulfill your nature.