How Type A Personalities Can Listen Better


TYPEThe phrase Type A personality was originally coined by two cardiologists in the 1950s, based on observations of how middle-aged men with heart conditions behaved in the waiting room. Doctors labeled patients who couldn’t sit still, sat on the edge of their seats, or jumped up frequently “Type A,” and subsequently conducted research that showed those people were more likely to develop heart disease and high blood pressure.

Since then, “Type A Behavior Patterns” have grown to include competitiveness, urgency, and hostility. Type A people are ambitious and critical of themselves, always feeling as if they need to make the most of every second. With that, they can be impatient, anxious, and try to overschedule their lives (which doesn’t sound familiar to me at all. . .). All these factors combine to make Type A people more easily roused to anger or frustration. It also means that listening can be a struggle.

“Investing time into listening feels to Type A people like they are wasting it because the results of the investment are not immediately apparent,” says Dave Popple, PhD, president of Psynet Group. Stephen Garber, founder and president of the executive coaching firm Third LEVEL, agrees that for Type A people, the listening struggle is real. “Type A personalities are usually so busy driving themselves and their teams forward that it is uncomfortable for them to pause long enough to listen,” he says. “This is often true for many of us, just more so for the Type A’s. The Type A thought process moves at such a quick pace that they are likely to have considered and decided what needs to be done, want to deliver that message, and move on to the next subject. It’s not always the most empowering or effective management,” Garber adds.

While we spend about 60% of our interactions “listening,” we retain only about 25% of what we hear, and I would be willing to bet that for Type A people, it tends to be even less. The best leaders, thinkers, and problem solvers are first and foremost the best listeners. If you need to be convinced of that, watch any of these brilliant TED Talks on the importance of listening. Type A comrades, we need to be better, so here are some ways we can start:

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