Wrestling with ambiversion

I talked earlier this week about my experience of ambiversion and it seemed to really strike a chord with loads of people. So I thought I’d explore the pull between extroversion and introversion a little bit more in the hope that it also resonates with others. It’s certainly something I struggle with.

Sometimes my head has a full-on WWE style wrestling match with my heart. And just like WWE at times it’s reasonably entertaining, but mostly it’s a bit over-the-top and overly dramatic!

My ultimate dream is also my biggest nightmare.

I dream of doing a TedTalk. I love watching those super interesting people speaking so effortlessly and so captivatingly on that funky stage. I wish I had something worthwhile enough to say coupled with the self-possession to be engaging enough to be invited to be a TedTalker! But in equal measure the idea of actually doing that makes me feel ill.

Perhaps you also know the feeling?

Maybe it’s a desire to be published that’s tempered by a fear of criticism. Or perhaps a wish to be a leader that is stifled by a worry of being personally disliked. Or even a dream to travel to exotic places tainted by a fear of the unknown.

There are often things I really want to do or achieve that leave me filled with dread. I took some time this week to reflect on how much of that might be driven by my ambiversion. I concluded that ambiversion definitely plays a role, but I think I have the added layer of an unusual DiSC profile that heightens my experience

My ambiversion drives a lot of social disconnect for me.

When I was MUCH younger I used to go out with friends to clubs because I wanted to spend time with them, but I often found the crowds too much and often ended up out on the balcony on my own (this was in the era before smoking was banned indoors so outdoor spaces were a great sanctuary. Told you it was ages ago!).

I also used to travel for work events. I loved catching up with peers at team building days or conferences, but at the end of the day when they sat around in deep discussion with a crisp glass of something tasty in their hands I felt on the outer with no energy left in the tank to engage properly.

And it’s not just group settings either. Even catching up with friends one-on-one can be tough!

I mentioned to someone recently that I rehearse conversation topics in my head, even when I’m meeting someone I’ve known for years. They looked at me fairly puzzled and asked why I do it. I hadn’t thought about it much before, but I suppose it comes from the introvert fear of not having something to say or getting stuck in awkward silence?

Even worse is my pattern of replaying every social interaction I’ve had in a day back through my head. Did I talk too much? Were they upset when I accidentally interrupted them that time? Did I sound like a know-it-all? Were they laughing with me or at me?

So while I enjoy and feel energised by these social interactions in the moment (extrovert me) I then go and overanalyse the exact same discussions (introvert me).

This behaviour reminded me of a similar quirk in my DiSC profile. My dominant styles are Steadiness, Compliance and Influence.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with DiSC:

  • People with high Steadiness are ducks on a pond. They like long-term, trust-based relationships based on loyalty. Their biggest fear is loss of security.

  • People with high Compliance are highly structured and detail oriented. They also tend to be less socially oriented and conflict avoidant. Their biggest fear is criticism.

  • People with high Influence are social bunnies. They love interacting with people and keeping things light and fun. Their biggest fear is social rejection.

You can read more about the DiSC styles here and take a free assessment here.

And I think these results echo (or amplify) my ambiversion. The introverted tendencies are evident in my Steadiness and Compliance results (analytical, reflective, empathetic) while the extroverted tendencies are evident in my Steadiness and Influence results (desire to build connection with others with humour and fun).

Sometimes I can physically feel the tug between my head and my heart (although thankfully not as dramatically as in the image at the top of the post!).

It’s like having the little angel and devil sitting on my shoulder; the angel (my heart) encourages me to go and connect and have fun with others while the devil (my head) starts the self-analytical tape playing and feeds my fears of social rejection and criticism.

If it sounds exhausting, it certainly can be! I wish I had an easy solution to offer, but I don’t.

While I’ve learned to grapple with the conflict over time, I can’t say I do it particularly well.

I am getting better at tuning out the overly-analytical head and trusting my heart. This has mostly developed by ripping off the bandaid and just doing things that feel right in my heart and reflecting positively on the experience afterwards (eg feeling lighter after chatting with a friend or enjoying relaying a funny story from the event).

Essentially my strategy is best summed up by author Susan Jeffers;

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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