Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a potential business trap to talk partisan politics and risk losing patients or even business partners
In a presidential election year (or even outside of one), talk of partisan politics can seemingly be inescapable. Social media has made it all the worse.
This means the issues your patients are passionate about are likely to reach your ears and you may be invited to speak up and share. How do you respond? Do you engage at all? Or do you simply stand down and stay away from any conversation of a political nature? What you say when patients talk politics could impact your relationships. What you say when a patient asks you a political question could impact your business.
Be cautious and consider your choices on how, and with whom, to talk politics. When it comes up in the coming months — and it will — take a moment to think through how you will handle patients and conversations. These three guideposts will come in handy.
Determine your position
In order to keep from being blindsided by a patient question, it’s time to determine your position on the key issues. How do you feel about privacy rights and required vaccinations and large health care systems?
These are issues relevant to your business, and to the larger profession, and with clarity achieved on how you feel about each, or what you think is a viable solution, you’ll be better equipped to transition a political question toward an issue in which you have knowledge and greater confidence. However, in each area and no matter your thoughts or feelings, there is also this important consideration: What portion of your position are you willing to share with your patient, and what is your level of interest in dissecting the issue mentioned at present?
Perhaps in some cases, your most viable position is that you don’t have one. Your position could be stated by saying, “I prefer to keep those feelings private,” or “That is a question I’ve not considered,” or “I appreciate you asking, and given the complexity of that issue, I am afraid we won’t have time to treat you and have that conversation — so let’s focus on just you today. Any areas causing you particular problems?” Sometimes the art of discretion is best achieved through well-intended distraction.
Focus on dialogue
Two adults having a friendly conversation are easily able to speak about their differing opinions without the presence of conflict. That same chat changes quickly in a discussion of partisan politics, and if you seek to sway your patient’s passionate opinion, you’re asking for a heated disagreement. If, however, you’re truly curious and can reserve judgment of a differing opinion, dialogue is able to continue.
Make it personal and it can be a problem. Take their opinion personally and you’ll experience frustration. Focus on having a mutual dialogue and you’ll be practicing the nearly lost art of conversation.
Try deflecting partisan politics with humor
Consider an approach that’s completely different: Use humor. Make signs that designate your practice as a “Politics-Free Workplace.” Patients will read that sign in one manner, while employees may take it to mean quite another, so be mindful of the potential irony. Or instead, designate your waiting room as a “Happy Place” or a “Good News Room.”
Play comedies or funny TV shows or lively advertisements and your own infomercials on screens in lieu of running news streams. Have staff politely share, when asked, that “in this office, we believe everyone needs a break from political ads, election news, and this type of discussion and here, we’re a proud provider of that option.”
The key is to direct what could be overwhelming tension (and the very element causing some of your patients’ stress and subluxations) away from your office. For most, unless they’re intimately involved in a campaign themselves, a space void of political ads or discussion could prove refreshing and highly appealing.
Navigating tricky waters
Partisan politics and patients can be a tricky combination. There will likely be a few with whom you can have a more open discussion. There will be others for whom you’ll want to transform your office to the political-free zone on the days of their appointments. And you may have patients who are candidates.
Certainly, there is no requirement for you to ever answer any patient’s political question. However, at all times our own consternation in this type of environment can be minimized by recognizing the reality of what is — turbulent political times — and practicing acceptance.
MONICA WOFFORD, CSP, was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives in the 2018 election. She is a leadership development coach and consultant, the CEO of Contagious Companies Inc., and author of Make Difficult People Disappear. She can be reached at Monica@MonicaWofford.com or ContagiousCompanies.com, or by calling 866-382-0121.