BY Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD,
What is it about certain personalities that we either love or just can't stand? Dealing with the personality traits of the people we work with can be a challenge. No one is perfect, and we all have traits that may grate on others' nerves. Many of us will agree that dealing with the personalities we don't like can be an emotionally draining part of our day. It's hard enough to stay on time with the busy schedule and give patients the quality care they deserve, but then throwing in the office drama queen can put us over the edge. Why do we let those people get to us? How can we rationally deal with someone that can be so irrational? It's a skill that can be learned, but it takes some effort and a lot of patience.
Many of us have taken a personality test, and there are several different kinds of tests. These can be very enlightening, and many of them explain people's qualities in an amazing way. I believe these profiles can be used to help you learn about yourself, and also how to get along with and understand others better. I give my students a personality profile every year, and we discuss the results during a luncheon in the fall. I use this for them to learn about one another and to work on team building.
Other articles by Whisenhunt
I respect every professional in the dental field, and I believe it's very important for hygienists to learn how to deal with all types of people and personalities. When we took psychology and sociology in the dental hygiene curriculum, it seemed like those classes didn't belong. But when we got out and started working, we realized that understanding people skills does have a place in any work situation or career field. In my column this month, as well as the next two columns, I want to remind you of a few qualities that show up in other people's personalities that may call for some extra understanding.
There are many different personality profiles, and some offices have their applicants take one to see how a person may fit with the personalities already in the office. I've heard some offices use them to complement their team, and to learn what personality types may be difficult for that office to deal with. You may be asked to complete one in a job interview. I will review a few of the common personality profiles that are being used as a team-building tool. They are all very involved and could have a whole course built around them. Here are some brief explanations with some comments that may help you understand those annoying character traits a little better and perhaps give you some ways of coping with the occasional work drama episodes.
One of the most common personality profiles that has been out there a long time is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is used in many work fields and is very useful in all work situations. The four main categories are Extraversion, Introversion, Sensing, and Intuitive. Under each of the main characteristics are four more character traits, which are Thinking, Feeling, Judging, and Perceiving.
"Each type or combination of preferences is characterized by its own interests, values, and unique gifts," according to Myers-Briggs. "It is a self-report questionnaire designed to make Jung's theory of psychological types understandable and useful in everyday life. MBTI results identify valuable differences between normal, healthy people, differences that can be the source of much misunderstanding and miscommunication." (Myers)
The introverts are described as people who tend to focus on their inner world or ideas; whereas the extrovert prefers to focus on the outer world of people and things. We tend to think of these two types as those who are quiet and to themselves, and those who like being around other people. I think everyone can have a little bit of both of these types. I am in general an extrovert and love being around people, but in some situations I am comfortable being alone. I think it often depends on the situation and comfort level of a person. If you are an introvert, it may bother you to be around an extrovert because the person talks so much or doesn't leave you alone. If this situations bugs you, then telling the person you're busy and need to get your work done may help you to keep your cool. (Myers)
The Sensing and Intuitive traits are also opposites. Sensing people focus on the present time and concrete information they have gathered; whereas intuitive people tend to focus on the future, with a view of patterns and trends. Sensing people observe what is going on around them. They focus on what is real and factual and are considered very practical. Intuitive people are more "big picture" types, and are imaginative, creative, and follow their intuition. (Myers)
The Thinking and Feeling traits focus further on the details of people. Thinking people prefer to base decisions on logic, objective analysis, or cause and effect, whereas Feeling people base their decisions on values and subjective evaluation of the people they're concerned with. This difference in personalities can be a major obstacle in some relationships. Thinking people are analytical and reasonable, want to be fair, treat everyone equally, and base things on logic. Feeling people base things on how they feel about a person, and are very tenderhearted, compassionate, and supportive. These differences can be a source of conflict because one is looking at the facts and the other is being more empathetic. (Myers)
The last two traits of the MBTI are Judging and Perceiving. Judging does not mean they are "judgmental" people. It means that they prefer a planned, orderly, and regulated way of managing their lives. They make decisions and like structure. They like sticking to a plan or schedule. Perceiving people like to live in a flexible, spontaneous way. They want to experience life and not be controlled by it. I call them the "fly by the seat of your pants" people. They're usually very free living, casual, and easygoing. These two types are very opposite and can be a big source of differences or misunderstandings in the office. If a judging type has a schedule change, it can cause them stress because of their rigid ways. A perceiving type can just go with the flow, and doesn't understand why the judging type is so upset. (Myers)
"Drama queen" characteristics can come out with any of these personality types. If a judging type is stressed about a change in the schedule, this is where you can be understanding and try to see where they're coming from. You could step in and help them get their routine back. This will help calm them down and decrease the drama in the office and in your life!
No matter what personality type you are, there are things that upset you that do not upset others, and we have to realize people deal with things differently. Just because they're different doesn't make them wrong; it just makes them different! We have to realize that only we have the power to let someone upset us. We have the power, and the hard part is realizing this and using that power to keep our lives calm. We also need to realize that asking questions in a sincere and compassionate way to try to understand a situation may help defuse it before it becomes a big problem. (Shouse)
Remember also that we should respect every professional we work with, and being understanding and patient should make life easier. When you get to know and understand your coworkers and see their point of view, it keeps you from letting their behavior get on your nerves. We seem to be more patient with the people we truly care about.
I will share some words from a book by one of RDH's wonderful columnists and a past coworker of mine, Dianne Glasscoe Watterson. She states, "Here's my advice for chronically unhappy doctors and hygienists - get over yourself! Get over being insecure, grumpy, hateful, explosive, touchy, unfriendly, perfectionistic, sour, impatient, dissatisfied, disloyal, uncaring, greedy, dishonest, unthankful, or whatever bad attitude you carry. To do this, you need to part with some of the stuff in your life. It is time to clean out your emotional closet and get rid of the junk that has accumulated there.... Develop an attitude of a thankful and caring heart that is 'others' focused and not 'me' focused. When you do this, happiness takes root and grows." I agree that if we could just get those drama queens to do this, Dianne, things would be so nice at work!
For the next two months, I will focus on the DISC profile and the Enneagram profile that look at personalities and character traits in two different ways. Don't let the drama queen get to you this week! Happy scaling! RDH
1. Myers IB. Introduction to Type 6th Ed. A guide to understanding your results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.: Pala Alto, California
2. Shouse D. Communicating Like a Pro, Professional Pointers for Boosting YOUR Communication Skills. Skillpath Publications: Mission, Kansas
3. Watterson DG. The Consummate Dental Hygienist: Solutions for Challenging Workplace Issues. Professional Dental Management, Inc. Frederick, MD pg.8,9
Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD, is the Department Chair of Dental Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Whisenhunt has taught since 1987 in the dental hygiene and dental assisting curricula. She has a love for students and served as the state student advisor for nine years and has won the student Advisor of the Year award from ADHA in the past. Her teaching interests are in oral cancer, ethics, infection control, emergencies and orofacial anatomy. Dr. Whisenhunt also has a small continuing education business where she provides CE courses for dental practices and local associations. She can be reached at [email protected].