Having different “personalities” in a workplace means that communication can be fraught with misunderstandings. Each person takes in and processes information differently. And that can mean issues in communication. However, understanding this basic idea that each person’s brain works differently from his or her colleagues can allow you to engage the other person in ways that allow you to communicate effectively.
In this episode of The Business of Practice podcast, we speak with Dr. Colleen Best. She is a DVM, PhD, CCFP. The CCFP stands for a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional. Best’s PhD research focused on relationships in equine practice, including veterinarian-client and referring veterinarian-specialist communication. Best is Leader of Mentorship and Engagement at NVA Canada, where she leverages her passion for education and support of veterinary professionals in the areas of communication, team performance, leadership, and well-being.
How can we better understand and communicate with other personalities in the workplace?
Communication and Personalities
“If you Google ‘personalities,’ you are going to come up with an endless list of different ways to consider it—Meyers Briggs, Hartman Colors, DISC, and so on,” said Best. “those can provide some helpful frameworks and give us some self awareness of how we operate and give us awareness about our team members.
“Fundamentally, what underlies all of those, is that the way my brain works and the way I understand myself is different than the way all of my peers operate and the way they understand themselves,” Best explained. “When we know that, we can engage with more curiosity and patience. And hopefully a willingness to let their strengths and the way they operate support outcomes and support our relationships instead of just choosing to be around people that are like ourselves.”
The podcast discussion delves into how ‘personalities’ can influence the way a person communicates, reacts to change, interacts with others or prefers to receive and process information.
Personalities and a Dishwasher
Best gave an easy-to-understand example of how she and her husband approach the purchase of a dishwasher. She acknowledged they have different personalities.
“My husband is a much more methodical person,” said Best. “He likes to explore options more than I do. He’s willing to spend more time working through a process. We were shopping for a dishwasher. He’s really happy with a lot of research. I’m over here going, ‘I want to know if it fits. I want to know if it’s going to do the things I want it to do. And I want to purchase it.’
“There are many things that go into our differences there,” she admitted. “One is how much do I have on my plate. How much I care about the dishwasher. In addition to my general, ‘Do we have what we need to know? Away we go!’
“His need or desire for information of a decision of a purchase of a certain value is different than mine,” she noted. “What has supported the two of us is we need to find a way for me not to run out of the store screaming and for him to feel his needs were met. So we talk about it. We share our needs. And some of the pieces we do separately.
“I think where we need to come together is looking at the reason we are engaging,” Best said. “What are we trying to do or achieve. What do I know about the how I am? What do I need to learn about how this other person is?”
She said we need to be aware of assigning negative labels, values or motivations to personalities or personality traits that don’t belong to us. Best said we should look for strength and value in other ways of doing things to contribute to positive outcomes.
“It’s actually great that my husband wants to spend more time looking at dishwashers than me,” said Best. “I don’t want to. And I might end up with something that two years down the road doesn’t work as well.”
Personalities in Leadership
If you are a leader, things are going to change. Recession. COVID. Working from home. New project. And people react different with change.
So as a leader, how do you help the different personalities be more comfortable with change?
“There are some personality types that are cool with change. The majority are not,” stated Best. “What we know and how we are handled influences our feeling of ‘safety.’ As a leader, one of the most important pieces of engaging with all of your team members and their personalities is empowering them to share with you what they need.”
Other Tips for Dealing with Personalities
Best took time to discuss several other scenarios that might be helped if you are aware of the personalities in your workplace. Stress, feelings, behaviors…all of these play a role in dealing with various personalities.
“All feelings are okay, all behaviors are not,” she emphasized. “We need professional behavior, and ‘rules of engagement’ must be set.”
Listen to the complete podcast to learn more about dealing with personalities in the workplace.
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About Dr. Colleen Best
Colleen Best, DVM, PhD, CCFP, (she/her) is from Guelph, Ontario, and gratefully acknowledges she lives on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation of the Anishinaabek Peoples. She graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in 2009. Best returned to OVC to complete her PhD in interpersonal relationships in equine practice. She has spent time in equine and companion animal clinical practice, as well as in lab animal medicine. At present, Colleen is Leader, Mentorship and Engagement, at NVA Canada, where she leverages her passion for education and support of veterinary professionals in the areas of communication, team performance, leadership and well-being. She is a certified compassion fatigue professional and trained in mental health first aid and suicide intervention. She also was a former member of the Ontario Vet Medical Association board of directors.
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