Communication is vital to building a successful practice. It’s also the reason many chiropractors fail to thrive.
You want to develop a communication style that empowers you for success.
Those first years in practice are loaded with excitement, nerves and learning curves. And you know how to check and adjust, but do you know how to build a business? The latter is something with no rulebook. It’s learned by trial and error.
My years in practice have taught me power of communication. You can hire a bookkeeper and train brilliant CAs, but if your communication style in the adjusting room isn’t hitting the right tone, it will have a big impact on attracting and retaining patients.
Paul McCrossin, DC, is a chiropractor who helps DCs deal with complaints, and he says the number one reason for them is poor communication.1 The significance of this can’t be overstated. Miscommunications in practice can create stress for you and your patients.
At this point in your career, you have two choices: launch into practice without thinking about this and learn by trial and error, or be a quantum observer of your own communication style and learn from others.
The delicate communicator
This type of communicator places extreme value on what the other person thinks, believes or says. They orient ourselves around that, tiptoe around themselves and bend over backward to avoid conflict. You could argue that it’s noble—and it almost is. The problem is you sacrifice your place in the conversation in order to give too much weight to what the other person says. For example:
Chiropractor: Okay, let’s talk about your goals and care plan. Patient: I want you to fix my posture, but I’m only coming to see you twice. Chiropractor (knowing that’s not going to cut it): Well, I guess we can see what we can do.
This conversation looks fairly innocuous, but it isn’t. You’ve checked this person and know they need care lasting well beyond two sessions. Two sessions won’t reach the posture-improvement goal, much less any functional improvement possible under longer-term care. But you don’t know how to close the loop in that moment and you dislike conflict. You tell yourself you’ll do it next time. But next time comes and you avoid it again.
This lack of assertiveness could mean the patient only sees you twice, and will then think chiropractic doesn’t work. It could also mean they don’t come back at all because you seem unsure of yourself.
Either way, it isn’t building your practice nor serving them well. Here’s something to watch for if you are a delicate communicator trying to be more assertive: Don’t overcorrect and swing to the other extreme. That is just as detrimental to building a practice.
The domineering communicator
This communication style is more common among type A driven personalities. Where the delicate communicator struggles with assertiveness, the domineering communicator struggles to listen. The domineering style tends to steamroll people. It doesn’t listen to their goals or objections and presents a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude, often ignoring or playing down the patient’s concerns.
Don MacDonald, DC, owner of South Side Chiropractic in Edmonton, Alberta, runs a high volume, wellness-based practice and operates Personal Chiropractic Coaching. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through drdonmacdonald.com.
1 MacDonald D. (2018). Dealing with feedbacks. Breaking the Underdog Curse. Available at: http://www.drdonmacdonald. com/dealing-feedbacks-dr-paul-mccrossin. Accessed 29 May 2018.