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Connecting with Different Personalities in the Clinic

Wright, Erin AuD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000473654.31988.e6
Feature Article

Dr. Wright is a private-practice audiologist and owner of independent hearing clinics in Canada. She is a student of psychology, leaning heavily on the Enneagram to modify her and her staff's presentation style to meet the needs of her clients. For more information or to schedule Dr. Wright to talk to your organization, email



Have you ever wondered why you click with some of your clients and wish others would just seek services elsewhere? We've all heard the saying, “We buy from who we like,” but how can we understand this at the clinic level? All clients are different, so how can we adjust our own style to meet the style of each one?



Jerry Ruzicka, former president of Starkey Hearing Technologies, spoke about different patient personalities and Myers-Briggs personality typing at a Starkey Hearing Innovations Conference in 2012. That became a game changer for me clinically; I saw my sales increase by 30 percent after adopting tips I learned about Myers–Briggs personality typing. At the time, I had been practicing for 12 years and was feeling a bit burnt out. I was finding myself annoyed with people more often than I ever used to be, but learning about Myers–Briggs changed my outlook in the clinic. I learned a strategy to ‘game’ my day in the clinic.

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There are two types of people: fast movers and slow movers. Fast movers walk into the clinic quickly, moving right to the front desk announcing their arrival and appointment time. (“Tim Smith for my 10:30 appointment.”) They often stand or pace in the waiting room and speak quickly. Slow movers are the opposite, as you would imagine. They frequently arrive early, take their time to get out of the waiting room chair, and often hang up their coats after you greet them. They also exhibit long, thoughtful pauses when responding to questions on case history.

First, identify your fast and slow clients, then determine if they are task oriented or people oriented. Task-oriented types get straight to business; they are bottom-line types. People-oriented types, on the other hand, want to like you and want to connect with you. These are the types that will ask you about the pictures on your desk. (“Are those your kids?”)



The customer personality styles fall nicely into a diagram that looks like this:

I put this grid right beside the name spot on the front page of my client form. Then, as soon as I feel that I have determined into which category the client falls, I put an X in that quadrant and modify my style to meet the client's needs. If we all understood this from the start, there would be fewer misunderstandings, more connection, and, most importantly, more needs being met.

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The first task is to identify your own style so you can understand what parts of yourself you need to be aware of. If you remember only one thing, it would be that if you are a fast mover dealing with a slow mover, slow down, and vice versa. People like information presented differently, so work to create four different presentation methods that you can pull out of your toolbox to fit the needs of your clients. Let's go through what to watch for with each type.

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The Analytical

  • Engineers; may be wary or suspicious
  • Arrives early, and often alone; not chatty to receptionist
  • Voice quality is more monotone
  • Minimal facial expressions; short answers, but thoughtful with pauses
  • Will not avoid eye contact as much as look elsewhere when answering questions
  • Asks lots of questions
  • Enunciates during word discrimination
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The Driver

  • Has false sense of the value of own time (will often ask, “Is she running late?”)
  • Stands/browses
  • Firm handshake, intense eye contact
  • Well dressed
  • Does not smile often
  • Will answer you as you are explaining
  • Leans in
  • Gives brief answers; not a lot of long stories in the case history
  • Quick responder to audiometry; will often close eyes (This may lead to false-positive test results)
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The Expressive

  • Visits easily with the receptionist
  • Animated; hand gestures are large
  • Scattered; often late
  • Charismatic; a smiler
  • Extended stories through case history; will often veer from the topic to seemingly unrelated stories
  • Will comment on photos in your office
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The Amiable

  • Personable, but not as dramatic
  • Arrives early to appointment; will hang up coat after the introduction
  • Chatty to receptionist
  • Slow moving, but warm and friendly
  • Leans back in their chair; limited hand gestures
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Now that you have your client identified, you have to modify your style to help the client feel at ease and comfortable making a decision with you.

Working with the analytical: We all know this stereotypical engineer type. I think this type has received a bad rap within our community, but it's just that these individuals are unlike three-quarters of us. They want to know that they are unique. Therefore, you have to ask them specific questions so they get to know that you're considering their unique needs. If you are a fast mover, slow down your rate of speech and be thoughtful in your answers to their questions. These are the types that might appreciate printed specs and the marketing materials we get from manufacturers. They want to see the detailed differences among technology levels.

Working with the driver: You want to have a good strong handshake with direct eye contact. The driver is the personality type who wants to get down to business right away and limit small talk unless they initiate it. Let this type of client lead the appointment. “Get there quicker” should be your motto when working with a driver. Get to the point as quickly as possible, using as few words as possible. Be confident and professional; the driver will want to see that you know your stuff. Drivers are decisive and one of the types that may make a decision on what hearing aid to order within the first appointment, so you want to give them multiple small decisions as you move through your discussion about hearing aids. For example, you may ask, “Do you feel like the CIC or the RIC would suit you better?”

Working with the expressive: Consider your body language. Mimic the expressiveness in your hand gestures and posture. The most important thing to remember about these types is to use your time to connect with them, rather than just trying to get through your spiel. Obviously, information is important, but this type will often want to have a conversation at some point that is off topic from hearing. I used to shut this down because I had important information to get through, but now I understand that even though this is the way I am, others may operate differently. These are your best word-of-mouth referrals, so making them happy will increase business for years to come.

Working with the amiable: These individuals are the hardest to identify because they often don't have obvious mannerisms like the other types. Seeing them as slow moving but more expressive helps me to identify them. They often make decisions for the benefit of those around them, and you will hear this in their case history: “My daughter made me come.” This type responds well to consistent reassurance during testing. “Good job, we are halfway through” is a phrase I might use when I am doing audiometry. Another helpful approach with this type is to slow your presentation down to make sure they have caught up. Check for comprehension by asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Does that sound like you?” This type may also respond well to phrasing such as, “Most people find the RIC style very comfortable,” as they could be more influenced by what most other people like.

One final thing to watch out for is the people in the quadrant opposite to yours—these people will be the hardest to connect with and the easiest to lose. I know that as a driver, I have to really slow things down when I have an amiable client. Conversely, I used to work with another audiologist who was an amiable type, and she would tell me how she would feel intimidated by a driver. If you have more than one audiologist in your clinic, get your receptionists involved to book to personality types. Receptionists are also your best first clue to the client's personality type because you can observe how the new client is interacting with the person in the front office.

As with any job, parts of it can be repetitive. This is where we can get in trouble because we start to say the same thing to everyone. Not only is this missing three-quarters of the population who are unlike you, but it also can become boring. Make it a challenge to connect with the unique person in front of you. Try to piece the client's clues together until you figure out his or her personality type. We already know the audiology side of the business well. Personality typing will not only make your own job more fun each day, but it will also make the experience more enjoyable for the client. Isn't that the whole point?

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