An introvert in a public profession

An introvert in a public profession

Are you an introverted veterinarian who’s drained by human interaction? You’re not alone (although you probably wish you were).
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Aug 16, 2016

Sound familiar?While I hate labeling myself, I have no choice but to accept that I'm an introvert. Since introverts are estimated to comprise about 25 to 50 percent of the general population, I'm fairly certain a like percentage can be found in our profession. And because clinical practice is tailor-made for extroverts, introverts should be prepared for the particular challenges they may face.

Small talk is incredibly difficult for me, and I have a hard time navigating the nuances of interpersonal interactions. It should come as no surprise that by my second appointment, I’m ready for a nap.

For starters, we have to deal with a large number of people (in addition to animals) each and every day. Interactions with people drain me, as I expend a considerable amount of energy pretending I'm an extrovert. Small talk is incredibly difficult for me, and I have a hard time navigating the nuances of interpersonal interactions. It should come as no surprise that by my second appointment, I’m ready for a nap.

I’ve worked with extroverted veterinarians, and I marvel at the ease with which they deal with clients and with people, in general. I can fake their skill for short times, but I shut down if I'm socially active for too long (“too long" being defined in terms of minutes).

I want to be perceived as someone who cares and listens, as I believe I am that person, but my personality type can work against me when it comes to the perceptions of others.

Introverts are naturally quiet and internalized—behaviors that extroverts may interpret as signs of aloofness or arrogance. While annoying in everyday life, such assumptions are especially problematic when they come from our clients. I want to be perceived as someone who cares and listens, as I believe I am that person, but my personality type can work against me when it comes to the perceptions of others.  

As soon as I finish up my medical duties in the exam room, my body tells me it’s time to jet. It requires a lot of extra effort for me to stick around and avoid coming off as an uninterested jerk. I can be friendly (again, with effort), but I'm not going to be friends with my clients. Friendship is an honor bestowed to very few when you're an introvert.

Though difficult, it’s not impossible to adapt. I’ve made finding moments of solitude a priority for recharging purposes—even if it means staying up a bit later at night to get so-called "me time.” I do few things outside of work that involve people.

I’ve purposely surrounded myself with extroverted personnel, and I leverage their innate interpersonal abilities as much as possible.

In the exam room, I’ve developed a method for gracefully wrapping up my role in an appointment. As soon as I’m done answering questions, I will often use an excuse, such as having to check on test results, and politely exit the room. My staff picks up the ball from there. I’ve purposely surrounded myself with extroverted personnel, and I leverage their innate interpersonal abilities as much as possible.

The prognosis for introverts isn’t wholly negative, however. Studies show that introverts are easier to please and are more focused, observant and self-sufficient. Introverts also tend to see the big picture.

My clients may not get the hugs, warmth, smiles and spontaneity they would receive from an extroverted veterinarian, but they will still get high-quality care and consideration.

I give everything I can to my patients and clients, especially behind the scenes where I can reference and analyze data and tests. I pursue the best courses of action and offer the best recommendations I can. My clients may not get the hugs, warmth, smiles and spontaneity they would receive from an extroverted veterinarian, but they will still get high-quality care and consideration.

 

A graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Dean Scott has enjoyed 35 years in the veterinary profession, including five years with the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps. He now practices small animal medicine at Animal Clinic of Brandon in Brandon, Florida.