Physician personality types: How self-awareness can improve your practice

December 10, 2019

The science of personality and why self-awareness matters.

My most recent article discussed the importance of understanding personality differences and identifying strategies for interacting with the different temperament “types”.

This article will focus on discovering your unique style and how it impacts your interactions with others. I often hear people attempt to describe physicians’ personality styles as if all physicians had the same style. Of course, we know that is never the case. Doctors come in all different styles, as do your staff, patients, spouses, children, and friends. While this is not meant to be a personality assessment (see the note at the end of the article if you would like to learn more about taking an assessment), there are some questions for you to consider will shed some light on your personality traits.

The questions below are meant to facilitate greater self-awareness so that you can enhance your communication and interaction with others. These are the types of questions that can help you identify your specific personality traits, which in turn can help inform how you are likely to respond to others, what is important in your work environment (and home, for that matter), what motivates you, what causes stress, and how you like to communicate.

Take time to respond to each question before moving on to the following section: “So what do I do with this information?”

A little introspection:

·       Do you tend to approach new situations and new ideas with enthusiasm, with cautious anticipation, or with skepticism and/or reluctance?

·       When asked to make a change (think of what it was like when EHRs hit the scene), are you adaptive and flexible or cautious and measured?

·       Where are you on the risk tolerance/avoidance continuum (from loathe to take risks to I’m all in)?

·       Does having clearly defined structure and processes make your day or does it feel too constraining?

·       Where are you on the organized, detail-oriented to spontaneous, disorganized continuum?

·       When you are getting ready to go on vacation do you like to know and plan for what you will be doing every day (or even, every minute of every day) or do you like to play it by ear?

·       Does achieving results trump forming/maintaining effective relationships?

·       Are you an analytical thinker, a systems thinker or a strategic/visionary thinker?

·       Do you do your best thinking alone or with others?

·       Do you get energized when interacting with others or do you need to be off on your own?

So what do I do with this information?

Becoming more aware and articulate about your personality preferences can assist you in your interactions with others and with your environment. Let’s look at a few areas that might be useful for you to consider.

1.     Your optimal work environment – based on what you understand about yourself, identify the factors that are most important for you to perform your best. For example, some people really need a place where they can be free of distractions when engaging in critical problem-solving or generating ideas. Some people find that being around others is important for re-energizing and talking through ideas

2.     How others perceive your communication style. The best way to discover this is by asking! Get feedback from your staff and people in your life so that you can better understand how you come across. Often communication challenges between people occur because we are not aware of how our style is impacting others. For example, you may be someone that tends to be short and sweet, getting directly to the point. That may come across to others as being So, if someone is long on the details, you may come across as annoyed or impatient.

3.     How you might be misperceived or misunderstood. For example, if you are someone that tends to be risk averse, others might perceive you as being too rigid and indecisive. If you tend to do your best thinking alone and wait to share your thoughts, others might think that you do not have an opinion on the subject.

4.     Managing stress – knowing your personality traits can help you learn to identify potential triggers (and thus, develop strategies to avoid, mitigate and/or better manage those triggers). For example, people who tend to like structure and consistency, may feel easily stressed when the office gets very busy. If you tend to be fairly spontaneous and impulsive, you may clash with others that need structure and organization.

The more aware you are of your personality traits and the more you are proactive in communicating this with others, the more effective you can be in your interactions with others. Self-awareness is the first step towards enhancing your relationships.

Catherine Hambley, PhD, is CEO of Brain-Based Strategies Consulting, where she specializes in executive coaching, leadership and team development and organizational transformation. Catherine has an extensive background in healthcare, where she works with physicians, nurses and hospital executives to create cultures of learning, collaboration and engagement. Check out her website at www.brainbasedstrategies.com

Note: if you are interested in taking the NeuroColor Personality Assessment and learning more strategies to work at your best and be a more effective communicator, contact Catherine Hambley, Ph.D. at catherine.hambley@gmail.com