How to Handle Your Introvert or Extrovert Doctor

 

Ever since I became a qualified Myers-Briggs MBTI instructor, I tend to try and figure out a person’s personality and what “type” they would be.  I was thinking about this the other day as I was talking to one of my physicians. I really like this guy because he is very calm and listens well.  He is a classic introvert.  He thinks a long time before he speaks.  Because I have had the MBTI personality assessment training, I know that when he is quiet, he is thinking about what he wants to say, so I try to shut up and give him the chance to speak.  

As I mentioned in the book I co-wrote with Toni Rothpletz,  It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, I am the classic extrovert.  I never stop talking.  When I am in a doctor’s office, I tend to blab blab blab about what I want to say because that is how I think . . . externally.  That is what we extroverts do.  The problem with extroverts going to doctors who are introverts is that we, the extroverts, tend to do all of the talking.  We want answers but we don’t give the poor doctor a chance to speak to give us those answers. 

From the studies I’ve seen, more people are extroverts and more extroverts than introverts are drawn to the primary care doctor positions. There is some data to show that introverts may be drawn to being surgeonsMy husband is an extroverted surgeon, but I can see that the surgical field would be a natural fit for the introvert.  I would think the anesthesiologist position would naturally appeal to the introverts as well.  As I wrote about in my book, How to Reinvent Your Career, I was a pharmaceutical representative for 15 years.  During that time, I saw that there were plenty of both types of doctors in all specialities.

How will you know if your doctor is an introvert or an extrovert?  The biggest clue will be in how long they take to respond to your questions.  If they answer quickly and talk over you, they may be an extrovert. If they take a few moments to think about what they want to say and appear to be quieter, they may be an introvert.

However, there will be a mix of introverts and extroverts in just about any field.  Therefore I think it is important to think about how to interact with your doctor based on your type as well as his or her type.  Here are some suggestions about how to interact with them:

If you are an introvert and your doctor is an introvert:

You both like to take time to think about what you want to say.  Your appointment probably will take a little longer while you both take your time to speak.  Introverts can interact well together because they understand how each other thinks.  However, be careful not to take too long to think about what you want to say and leave without getting your point out there.  It will come naturally for you to wait for their response but be sure they have had a chance to say all that they want to say.  You might ask “is there anything else I should be aware of?” or something like that to be sure they are finished. 

If you are an introvert and your doctor is an extrovert:

You may find more frustration here because your doctor will be doing most of the talking.  You need to be aware that since there is a higher number of extroverts, you have a good chance of this happening.  You may have to push yourself to think a little quicker and be more prepared ahead of time.  I would recommend coming with a list of your concerns that you have had time to think about previously so that you can just hand them to the doctor.  This helps keep his active mind busy and you can be sure that your questions will be heard. 

If you are an extrovert and your doctor is an introvert:

This is the situation I mentioned previously that I was in with my physician.  It is important that we as extroverts learn to recognize the introvert personality.  If you are doing all of the talking and the doctor is just listening and not really saying much, you might be talking to an introvert.  (It almost sounded like a Jeff Foxworthy routine there)  Try to ask one question at a time and stop and wait for their response.  I have to stop myself all of the time and just shut up.  This can be difficult for the extrovert but if you really want your answer, you must be aware that they think internally and like to take their time coming up with a response.  For you introvert doctors out there reading this . . . You would best be served to tell the extrovert patient something like, “that is a good question . . . give me a second while I think about an appropriate answer.”  That may shut us up long enough to sit still and wait for you to speak.

If you are an extrovert and your doctor is an extrovert:

In this situation, everyone is talking . . . and at the same time!   This can be a problem as well.  If everyone is speaking over each other and no one is really listening, the problem you are having may not be heard.  I think having a list of ailments and concerns written down before you go can help with every group.  In this particular situation, it may be helpful because it may keep both of you focused.  Try not to talk over the doctor and if they do not stop speaking, stop them every once in a while and say something like, “can I ask you a question?”   This will make a break in the conversation and let them know that you are about to say something that is important.

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