When was the last time you felt frustrated as a patient left your office without accepting your recommendation for help? How about the last time an agitated patient left you feeling as if you came up short, despite the fact that you did everything in your power to help him/her?

These are fairly common scenarios hearing care professionals face. In fact, they are not uncommon experiences in any profession. Why? Because different people respond differently to different personalities.1 We sometimes describe the failure to communicate effectively as “not clicking with the patient” or having a “disconnect.”

Your ability to understand your own characteristics and social style, as well as those of your patients, can be helpful for three important reasons:

  1) The more insight you have into the social style and motivations of each patient you see, the faster and more efficiently you will be able to tailor you own style to meeting their needs. (After all, meeting the needs of your customers is a significant part of being a successful clinician.)
  2) Gaining some understanding of your own personality and social style can allow you to compensate and/or adapt that style to better suit those patients who are markedly dissimilar to your social style.
  3) Armed with social style information, you are less apt to take negative comments from your patients so personally.

Four “Social Style” Types
In the business world, marketing firms frequently use “Personality Assessments” to categorize the buying public into behavioral categories or decision-making styles. Sometimes these assessments rely on formal questionnaires that can be analyzed and scored.

Unfortunately, in busy hearing aid offices or clinics, there is already precious little time allotted to complete all the paperwork necessary to maintain business as usual. For most practices, it would prove inconvenient (if not impossible) to add one more form. However, most seasoned dispensing professionals already recognize personality types on an intuitive level. They habitually assess their clients from initial contact and make their own decisions about how best to approach the presentation and solutions that will fit each client’s decision-making style.

It’s not magic, it’s not voodoo, it’s not even mind reading—although some personality styles are easier to recognize than others. Personality assessment is an acquired skill that can be developed and finely tuned. Typical literature related to personality assessment recognizes and describes four prominant personality or behavioral types:

Analytics are thought-oriented. They are logical people who enjoy problem solving. They tend to focus on accurate details and are more concerned with content than style.

Analytics enjoy perfecting processes and working toward tangible results. They live life with a consistency based on facts, principles, and logic. Analytics believe it is important to do things right by gaining a lot of information and understanding it thoroughly. They control their emotions and tend to be reserved in demeanor. They act methodically and use time in a deliberate and disciplined manner. They focus on the past to give them direction for the future and prefer to work on a predictable schedule.

Drivers are action-oriented. They are decisive, pragmatic, and efficient. They know what they want, where they are going, and how to get results. They are competitive individuals, motivated by a desire to control events and achieve their objectives.

Drivers want to accomplish things efficiently, so they focus on practical approaches to attaining bottom-line results. They are fast-paced, task-oriented, and work quickly. In demeanor they are forceful, decisive, and strong; they tend to use direct eye contact. They often speak rapidly, and they prefer brief reading material, working alone, and even directing others as they see fit (including health care professionals!).

Expressives are socially oriented. They are playful, fun loving, and spontaneous. They are energetic, enthusiastic people who enjoy being the center of attention. They are often charming, persuasive, and animated.

Expressives often want to make decisions quickly. They are apt to express opinions strongly, and they dislike routine. Expressives are innovators who generate creative ideas and excel at getting others excited about their vision. In demeanor, they often use large gestures; they speak quickly, frequently, and dynamically.

Amiables are relationship-oriented. They are warm, nurturing individuals who place priority on friendships, cooperative behavior, and being accepted by others.

Amiables like to achieve objectives with other people, using understanding and mutual respect as their guides. They are empathic and open to seeing things from the other people’s points of view. They are inclusive and ask for others’ ideas. Their demeanor is warm and friendly.

The Four Social Styles and the Four Major Presentation Styles
Simply identifying each of these personality or social styles is not enough to get the job done; the trick is to use your perceived behavioral information to create individualized sales presentations that leave no objection unanswered and no worry unmitigated—regardless of who is sitting across the table from you. Additionally, understanding one’s own social style provides insights into your favored communication approaches. Recognizing this, you can adjust your presentation to better suit the patient’s specific information needs.

The four cornerstones of all successful sales presentations are data, options, testimonials, and guarantees. It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many dispensing professionals forget to include one or more of these elements when making a presentation. To some extent, all of these methods should be used in a counseling and consultative approach in order to help the patient arrive at the hearing solution that is right for them.

The following briefly discusses each of the four elements of presentation relative to the decision-making styles of each of the four behavioral types discussed above. Chances are you’re probably using some of these ideas already.

Data. As you know, in the hearing care profession, there is a lot of technical data. It is important to know that Analytics use data, systematic approaches, and reflection to arrive at decisions. In your presentation to Analytics, therefore, be sure to provide quantifiable evidence. You may wish to use statements like, “We can save you 15% by purchasing today,” or “Working together, we can get you hearing better in 6 weeks, and here’s our timeline to do so…” You may also wish to provide them with take-home information that, depending on the individual, might include articles from scientific and medical journals.

Analytics also focus more on the future, so include quantifiable information about the service you will provide once the contract is signed. Thus, a clear “treatment course” is particularly useful when counseling these clients. For example, you might say, “I expect to see you at least 4 times a year—or about once every 3 months in 2005—to make sure your hearing aids are performing well and that you are hearing better every day.”

Options. Drivers tend to base their decisions on facts, but they are risk takers by nature. They are looking for options laid out for them so they can make the final decision and then lead the project.

These clients feel a need for options and ownership. Thus, you might prefer to offer your advice as, “Given the results of your hearing assessment and lifestyle needs, we can select from two fitting solutions, and here are the pros and cons of each…” or “Let’s say we go with Solution #1, then we might expect that…”

Testimonials. Expressives rely on the opinions of others whom they consider important or successful for decision making. Therefore, provide them with testimonials from previous clients (who have given you permission to do so) and noted experts in the field, especially if the information relates directly to their own needs and desires.

Your approach might be, “Marge, you told me that you sometimes miss what your customers are saying to you. Did I tell you that Joe at Company X used this type of hearing aid technology and he experienced a 22% increase in his ability to close sales after being fitted with hearing aids. These days, he says that he doesn’t miss a word…” or “When I was speaking to your wife, and she assured me that you are now hearing far better than before in a much wider variety of listening settings.”

Guarantees. Amiables tend to use personal opinions in arriving at decisions and want guarantees of minimal risk—especially in personal relationships.

This means that you should make sure that they feel you have their needs and concerns covered. You might say, “Here’s my card. If you have any problems with your new hearing aids before our appointment next week, you can call me directly and we’ll get you in right away and take care of it.” Reiterate the fact that your mission is to try to do the best job possible at serving their communication needs, and that you’ll go the extra mile for as long as they are willing to work with you.

True to Type
These catagorizations are not always clear-cut; obviously, people can also be a mixture of the above styles. The point is that, if you get to know enough about each of your clients, you may be able to identify their own behavioral decision-making styles and adapt your presentations to better fit their needs—not just as customers or clients, but also as individuals. This inserts a dynamic component into your counseling approach, allowing you to shape your presentation to the way in which your client uses information for his/her decision making.

This article presents broad catagories of patient personality types, as well as general suggestions for approaching these patients. Readers should recognize that there are several more formal approaches—including the use of the Myers-Briggs2 and Kiersey3 assessment tools—that may be helpful to dispensing professionals in assessing patient personalities. In recent years, several interesting articles in the hearing care literature have been published on the topic of personality profiling and patient counseling.4-8 Some authors have also addressed the interesting subject of how the personality type of the dispensing professional may, for better or worse, interact with the personality type of the patient.9-10 Additionally, there is speculation that personality profiling may one day also help determine the actual parameter settings and hardware functions (eg, attack/release times, etc) of hearing instruments.

For the experienced dispensing professional, it’s likely that you’ve been using information about social styles on an intuitive level for many years. However, recognizing the social styles and personality types—along with the various presentation strategies one might use to better inform a particular personality type—is valuable for everyday counseling.

f09a.jpg (8459 bytes) f09a.jpg (8459 bytes) Brian Taylor, MA, is director of continuing education, and Rebecca Younk, MS, is regional trainer, for Amplifon USA, Plymouth, Minn.

1. English K, Clark JG. Counseling in Audiologic Practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon; 2003.
2. Bayne R. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Critical Review and Practical Guide. New York: Chapman and Hall; 1995.
3. Kiersey D, Bates M. Please Understand Me. Delmar, Calif; 1984.
4. Traynor RM, Buckles KM. Personality typing: Audiology’s new crystal ball. In: Kochkin S, Strom KE, eds. High Performance Hearing Solutions, Vol. 1: Counseling. Hearing Review. 1997;4(1)[Suppl]:28-31.
5. Humes, L, Dimensions in hearing aid outcome. J Am Acad Audiol. 1999;10:26-39.
6. Traynor RM. Relating to Patients. In: Sweetow RW, ed. Counseling for Hearing Aid Fitting. San Diego: Singular Publications; 1999.
7. Cox R, Alexander GC, Gray G. Personality and the subjective assessment of hearing aids. J Am Acad Audiol. 1999;10(1):1-13.
8. Traynor R, Holmes A. Personal style and hearing aid fitting, Trends in Amplif. 2002;6(1):1-31.
9. Carmen R. Personality types as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Audiol Today. 2003;15(4):14-18.
10. Traynor RM. Personal style and hearing aid fitting. Hearing Review. 2003;9(8):16-22.
Correspondence can be addressed to Brian Taylor, MA, Amplifon USA, 5000 Cheshire Lane, Plymouth, MN 55446; email:
[email protected]