If you’re an introvert, make the most of your strengths.
If you don’t like to be the life of the party, you’re not alone. As many as 70% or 80% of veterinarians are introverts, estimates suggest.
Those numbers don’t surprise Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way. “For a lot of introverts, being around people is draining,” she says. “One of the party tips I give to introverts is, ‘Step away from the noise and talk to the dog.’ It makes sense that introverts would choose jobs with animals.” Also, she adds, introverts do well in one-on-one situations, so being in that exam room with a client and a patient is a good fit.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur, says the most successful business owners are not stereotypical go-getters, but introverts. They tend to have a “pioneer spirit” that bodes well for those who strike out on their own, says Buelow.
If you have an introverted nature, don’t fight it. Instead, make the most of your tendencies.
1. Play to your strengths. In general, introverts are good observers of people and their feelings. If that describes you, then you may be able to intuit when a grieving client needs a hug or when one doesn’t want to be touched. Use your instincts to provide customer service tailored to your patients and their owners. “That empathy can be a really powerful thing,” Buelow says.
2. Schedule your breaks. Typically, extroverts get their energy from being around other people; introverts re-energize when alone. Some introverts might need 15 minutes to step outside after an hour with patients. Others might want many back-to-back appointments and then a large chunk of time alone at the end of the day. “The brain gets tired like a muscle gets tired. And when we get tired, we get cranky,” Dembling says.
3. Delegate. Every small business owner and doctor could heed this advice, but it holds truer for introverts. Introverts, Buelow says, are particularly prone to a “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality. Let that go and delegate tasks that don’t fit your style. For example, Dembling says, many introverts abhor talking on the phone. If that’s you, let your staff make follow-up calls while you connect with people in other ways.
4. Look for balance. Having both introverts and extroverts in your practice is a good thing, because you’ll have people on your team with different strengths. Keep in mind that being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is shy or has social anxiety. Don’t cut introverts off from people entirely. The trick is to have a conversation about how to work with different personalities. Even an article like this one, Buelow says, can help start the discussion about how you work together and how you can support each other’s needs.
Which Personality Are You?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is the gold standard in understanding 16 personality types and will give you a good starting point for a discussion of job descriptions and schedules.