YOUR DOCTOR, THE AMBIVERT

Now don’t be alarmed by the title of this piece. The term ambivert is not in anyway connected with the term pervert.

In fact I first became aware of the term via The Wall Street Journal article on the subject by Elizabeth Bernstein. It described a combination of personality traits that did not fit the definition of either an extrovert nor an introvert but something of a hybrid.  

In truth this description sounds very much like me.  Like most of us I often embarked on the journey towards self-discovery.  Who am I, really? How do I relate to the world, really? I have come to the conclusion that I am not a “people person”.  On occasion, when the discussion arises, I will confess this quality to others.  Those who have witnessed me in the course of performing my professional duties as a physician/gastroenterologist are often baffled by my confession.  “No way” they might state.” You can be charming and warm with your patients, particularly the nervous ones.” Of course I thank them for that assessment but admit that this is an act I put on.

 I am always been around extroverts.  My Father was comfortable speaking with anyone and everyone. My wife and daughter-in-law are very comfortable engaging in conversation with total strangers. My Mother was quieter.  I must have inherited her genetic makeup when it comes to speaking with strangers. 

I have always wondered if my approach to dealing with patients is an act, a bit of a charade.  Am I just faking my outward persona?  I know many of my patients would be shocked by my admission.  I often observe myself in the role I play.  But am I being inauthentic? I don’t think so.  I believe we are all capable of being different people under different circumstances.  Years ago I learned the behavior that allowed me to relate better to my patients, to win their trust and to maximize the therapeutic encounter I have with them. I am now comfortable in that role.  I don the white coat of the physician and become that doctor. I believe it contributes to the healing process itself.

 I have observed that I do actually relate well to one individual at a time.  I value time spent with one person in which I can cut through the superficial banter that passes for being “social”.   I am comfortable discussing the deepest metaphysical issues with anyone.  I find those topics holds my interest and I lose any sense of being self-conscious.  I find that actually quite rewarding.  On the other hand, I find “small talk” about personal preferences, other people’s families whom I don’t actually know, rather boring.

 But at least I now know what I am— an ambivert.  I just need to explain the term to anyone who hears it for the first time.

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