5 communication tips to help you make that critical connection
As a doctor of chiropractic (DC), you know the value of proper communication cannot be underestimated and is a vital component of a successful doctor-patient relationship. When you combine good communication skills with your physical and technical capabilities as a DC, your practice will see stronger patient connections and improved patient experiences overall. This article presents five communication tips that will help you connect with your patients and sustain long-lasting doctor-patient relationships.
How to communicate with your patients
Communication is key to connection, and connection is key to the doctor-patient relationship. The better you communicate with your patients, the stronger that connection is likely to become.
If your goal is to connect with your patients on a deeper level, you’ll want to evaluate your current communication style and weigh it against the following tips. By pinpointing areas that need improvement, you can begin to better your communication and develop top-notch relationships. Consider the five communication tips below if you want to enhance patient experiences and strengthen your patient connections.
1. Ask questions
There is an unspoken dynamic between most doctors and patients that sets the foundation for the relationship they share. That is, the doctor is the expert — the one with the knowledge, training and authority.
While this is true — you likely have far more chiropractic know-how and experience than your patients — it can make a real connection with your patients challenging. You may want to reduce the gap between you by asking questions rather than using your position of authority to talk at them.
By shifting your communication style to include more questions, you send a signal that their words and opinions have merit. You create a two-way street of communication, and through that, connection. It’s a simple tweak to how you interact with patients, and with a little practice, it can be highly effective.
2. Express empathy
People turn to you when they are hurting and struggling. Whether it’s the result of injury or something chronic, your patients are searching for relief and healing. Often, they feel isolated and lack hope. In addition to physical help, they are looking for a personal connection with someone who can meet them where they are emotionally.
You are not a therapist, and you shouldn’t be expected to play that role. However, a bit of empathy goes a long way with many patients. By expressing an understanding of how your patient feels, what they’re afraid of and the problems they’re facing, you can forge a strong connection.
Remember, your patients are more than bones, muscles and ligaments; they are human beings who long for connection and appreciate relationships.
3. Modify your language
When attending school and communicating with other DCs, you learn and use a particular type of language filled with technical words and specific jargon. While this might be appropriate at a professional conference or in a peer-reviewed study, the unfamiliar language of the chiropractic world can be alienating to patients.
It’s easy to let this language — with which you are comfortable — slip into conversations with patients. However, what seems natural and self-explanatory to you is likely overwhelming and incomprehensible to most of your patients. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, you risk widening the gap between the two of you and weakening your relationship.
It may take practice, but with intentionality and effort, you can shift how you talk to patients, including the words you use. A helpful tip to overcome this barrier is to explain things using metaphors. By breaking down technical jargon into examples most people can relate to, you will enhance their understanding and set a precedent of shared experience.
4. Keep it casual
Your goal when working with a patient is to help them achieve a healthier, happier life. It is easy to let this motivator take control and dictate your interactions with patients. No one would blame you for being so focused on improving a patient’s quality of life that you fixate on the nuts and bolts of physical healing.
Just because you have a job to do does not mean you can’t connect with your patients beyond pure professionalism. You don’t need to be their best friend and start golfing together, but you should feel free to loosen up, break out of the purely goal-oriented mindset, and have conversations about more than your chiropractic work.
Not only does discussing other topics and interests often help you establish a relationship with your patient, but it can also serve as the icebreaker they need to put their nerves at ease. Coming to the chiropractor is not an easy thing for everyone, and many patients are likely to deal with fear and hesitancy when undergoing adjustment. Talking about their passions and priorities may help them overcome these feelings while simultaneously connecting with you.
5. Be transparent
As a chiropractor, you’ve studied, trained and worked professionally in the field, so you are equipped to handle the technical aspects of your craft.
Your patients are unlikely to have that same experience. They may be hesitant about adjustment, unfamiliar with the process and unsure of what the future holds for their physical health. By meeting them where they are and being transparent about your approach and why you are doing certain things, you can calm those feelings of uncertainty and establish a mutual understanding — the basis of a newfound connection.
Connecting with your chiropractic patients doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take effort and intentionality. With the tips above, you can shift how you approach your relationships with patients to better communicate with them and form meaningful relationships that benefit both parties.
As a DC, your pursuit of improvement and excellence never stops. From connecting with clients to adopting new technologies, you aspire to be the best chiropractor possible. For more helpful tips for your chiropractic practice, subscribe to Chiropractic Economics. It’s a great resource for chiropractic professionals who love to learn and grow.