Are you an Introvert, Extravert, or “ambivert”? Why is it often so difficult to figure this out? Is there a spectrum with complete introversion on one end, total extraversion on the other, and ambivert in the middle? Is this question answered based only on your social habits?
Much of the confusion here is due to the simplifications Myers and Briggs made to the original system, and the misunderstandings amplified by the endless bastardizations of the MBTI system itself. In his original system of Cognitive Functions, Carl Jung proposed four core functions: Sensing (S), Intuition (N), Thinking (T), and Feeling (F). They each could be oriented towards the outer world (Extraversion, E) or inwardly (Introversion, I). This means that there isn’t just Extraversion and Introversion. There are 4 ways of being extraverted and 4 ways of being introverted!
Furthermore, individuals are not one or the other in the original system. We each have a Dominant function that is the hallmark of our personality, and a second “Auxiliary” function that supports the Dominant. In most circumstances, these two develop to balance each other. So if your Dominant function is Extraverted, your Auxiliary function will be Introverted. If your Dominant function is Introverted, your Auxiliary function will be Extraverted.
This means that everyone who is mature enough to have adeptly developed both of these top functions is “ambiverted,” otherwise you will appear more of one or the other depending on the direction of your Dominant function. The term “ambivert” was coined to counter the demand of the MBTI system that everyone be one or the other, because people can innately tell they do both. But the term isn’t needed in the original system, because the use of both introversion and extraversion is built into the theory. Myers and Briggs purposely designed their system as a forced choice assessment in order to tease out the directions of your Dominant and Auxiliary functions.
However, this is rather difficult to do, because you can be extraverted or introverted, each in four different ways! And this can make extraversion or introversion look fairly different depending on WHICH function you extravert or introvert for your Dominant function! For example, consider an ENTJ — her Dominant Te will be running around starting, managing, directing, and completing projects in a very outwardly and energetic extraverted manner. But get her in a social situation, and suddenly her inferior introverted feeling (Fi) may become a bit uncomfortable and reserved. From this she may conclude she’s an introvert, since this dichotomy is often thought to only pertain to social engagement.
In fact, social engagement is Fe, only one of the ways you can extravert. But if you extravert thinking instead, Te, you will be actively working to bring order and structure to your outer environment. If Se is your top extraverted function, you’ll be most interested in actively engaging with the physical world, athletically or mechanically in various capacities. If Ne is your top extraverted function, you’ll extravert by actively creating and championing new possibilities into the world, whether it be for people or by inventing.
Introverts on the other hand are all lost inside their own internal thoughts because of their dominant introverted function… but what they are doing in there will be quite different! Introverted thinkers, Ti, will be using reason and logic to sort out truth from fiction with a skeptical, critical eye. Introverted feelers, Fi, will be analyzing the impact of everything on themselves, and forming conclusions about purpose and ethics. The Si will be comparing everything that’s happening to the past, looking for continuity in their worldview in order to maintain security and belonging. The Ni will appear to be completely out of it because she’s busy holding conversations with the collective unconscious.
You can see how it will be a bit difficult to pin all this down with a test! Kudos to Myers and Briggs for coming up with one that has any degree of success above random. When I tried to create my own test, I realized what they were up against! This is also why you should not toss the system to the trash if you get different results on different tests. And why you should consult a professional (me) to really get your essential type figured out. Incidentally, as people mature and become less stereotypical of their type, the MBTI can become that much less accurate at figuring them out.
There’s another interesting side effect accompanying the fact that the majority of people who take the MBTI don’t realize that they have both an Extraverted and Introverted function in their top two. Extraverts tend to suspect they are Introverts, while others tend to think Introverts are Extroverts. Extraverts understand that there is a part of them (like their Auxiliary function) that introverts. They then think that they must be Introverts since that aspect of their personality exists. Introverts on the other hand, have an Extraverted Auxiliary function. This is the function that the rest of the world sees, since the Dominant Introverted function is quietly secured away inside. So it looks to others like the Introvert must be an Extravert!
Contact me to learn more about extraversion and introversion in your own life.