Stifle Your Type A Excesses

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Here's a tip for the Type A professional: "Type A" is not synonymous with "psychopath," or at least it shouldn't be.

If you are Type A, you know it and are proud of it. Intensely driven, ambitious, impatient, high-energy and competitive, the person with a Type A personality rises naturally to the top in the business world.

Those that display these characteristics in excess, though, are commonly called "psychopaths," if only behind their backs. This clinical term for someone who lacks empathy or remorse has moved into the workplace mainstream to characterize a boss who is a screaming diva and a bully.

Professional counselor and self-confessed Type A Melissa Raffoni has written a brief guide for The Harvard Review on "How Type A People Can Play Nice with Others," the others being their Type B colleagues.

She calls it the "High D curse." That is, a Type A has a tendency to dominate, to be demanding, to be distracted too easily.

Here are her three tips for better Type A behavior:
  • Encourage others to participate. To avoid that tendency to be domineering in meetings, plan an agenda that requires others to participate. You know you tend to dominate the conversation. Give someone else a chance. And don't interrupt.
  • Focus on empathy. To be less demanding, you need to realize that not everyone moves or thinks at your pace, but that doesn't mean they have less to contribute. Motivate them to succeed. Don't browbeat them into failure.
  • Minimize interruptions. To avoid getting distracted, stop trying to do several things at once. Answering your phone or reading your email while someone is trying to talk to you is both rude and counterproductive.

The concept of a Type A and Type B personality has been around since the 1950s, when a heart specialist noted that certain characteristics were common among patients who developed heart trouble. However, the definition is evolving, and not in ways that are entirely complimentary to the Type A.

An article in Psychology Today by Ronald E. Riggio, a professor of leadership, suggests that a Type A personality contains elements of hostility, aggression and lack of positive emotional expressiveness. All of these are associated with greater risk of a heart attack.

They're also associated with lousy business leaders. Aggressive and irritable, these Type As are not good team players. They don't delegate work because they think they can do it better. They're overworked and stressed out, and they don't realize they only have themselves to blame.

If you're not sure whether you're a Type A, Dr. Riggio's questions look at the downside: Do you eat rapidly? Do you get irritated easily?

Notably, a Type B personality isn't simply the opposite of Type A. That is, a Type B isn't lazy, unambitious or phlegmatic, at least by definition. They tend to be more creative, imaginative and philosophical.

Clearly, the Type B needs to develop some strategies for working alongside the Type A. Psychologist Leah Campbell offers these suggestions:
  • Be direct. Keep in mind that the Type A beside you is moving at a higher speed.
  • Respect time. Showing up late drives a Type A crazy, as does conversational dithering and anything else that appears to waste time.
  • Don't take it personally. They are not trying to be rude. It's just the way they are.
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