From the day I set foot onto the Palmer West campus, chiropractic education has been on my mind constantly. Even when I am not practicing, opportunities arise for me to talk about what I do as a chiropractor.
Talking to people has nothing to do with trying to sell them anything. It involves wanting to teach anyone who is willing to listen about the benefits of chiropractic care.
No matter where you are in your schooling, you need to develop the ability to educate people quickly and accurately about your profession.
Make it easy to understand
The most important concept to remember when you are talking to people about chiropractic is to put your knowledge into terms and ideas that they understand. People tend to learn one of three ways:
1. Visual – Visual learners respond well to pictures, diagrams, charts, and colors. They need to draw things out in order to understand the concepts they are learning.
2. Auditory – Auditory learners retain information best by hearing it. This includes not only words but also pitch, inflection, and tone.
3. Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners learn by tactile sensation. These are “hands-on” people.
In many cases people learn with a combination of these methods, with one of them being stronger or more preferred.
When analyzing yourself to see which of these methods you tend to use, think about the classes where you really excelled. Very likely, the teacher taught and/or tested in a manner that showcased your preferred method of learning. Since you really learned and understood the information, it likely came out in your testing performance and overall grade.
When you start to explain chiropractic to someone, keep these different methods of learning in mind. It helps to know your audience because the less someone knows about chiropractic, the more basic the information you have to cover. Remember, your delivery and ability to speak effectively to people is a skill that we are all constantly practicing. Even after 11 years as a chiropractor, I am still perfecting my communication skills.
I used to carry around a spine key chain and would bring it out and show people. This obviously appeals to visual learners the most. While it is not totally accurate, it is accurate enough for most people. After bringing out the key chain, I would put it in the person’s hand so they could run their fingers up and down the spine and pelvis. This appeals to the kinesthetic part of learning as well. These key chains are very portable and can be purchased at most chiropractic college bookstores.
If I had a notebook or backpack handy, I carried around a few color pictures of bones, muscles, and nerves to help me give a few more visual clues.
I am very careful to use watered-down, plain language to describe the spine, muscles, body parts, and types of chiropractic treatment to tap into the auditory learner. I watch peoples’ faces when I speak to them to make sure they are following what I am saying.
An auditory learner may close their eyes for a few seconds to focus on hearing the words you are saying. Pick your language based on your audience. You will obviously speak differently to a medical doctor than to a stockbroker when describing what you do.
When I speak to people about my job, I routinely put my hands on their spine or the particular body part they are asking me about. Placing my hands on their body allows me to point out exactly what I feel their problem could be. This does not involve doing an adjustment right then and there; it involves showing patients that I am listening and my hands can sense what is wrong. It also establishes a personal connection with patients and shows them that I really care about helping them.
Wherever you are in your chiropractic education, start thinking about how you talk to people about our profession. The thought of public speaking and talking to strangers can be scary or uncomfortable but you need to be able to communicate effectively with people to be a successful chiropractor.
If you have any questions about this topic or any others, visit my blog, From Student to Teacher, and write to me. I will answer your questions and look forward to talking with you.