I’ve asserted that sloppy language is a sign of sloppy thinking and sloppy thinking produces a sloppy practice (and life). Chiropractors sloppy with their own language are often unable to detect the subtle clues and nuances in a patient’s sloppy language. Language that not only predicts their behavior, but reveals their lack of commitment.
Combine sloppy languaging with poor listening skills and you have a practice that never gets out of first gear. Such practices are a constant struggle, rife with superficial relationships and only rare glimpses of the deep, personal satisfaction that was promised by helping others. All this self-effort produces an emotional drain that makes practice burdensome and leads to burn out.
Consider the following exchange between a chiropractor and a new patient during the course of a report of findings:
“Do you really want to fix this thing so it doesn’t keep coming back?”
“Does the care plan I’ve laid out make sense to you?”
“Are you prepared to do your part by following our suggested home care procedures?”
“If we help you with your headaches, would you feel comfortable telling others about our practice?”
“If you can’t make one of your visits, will you call Barbara and let her know so we can reschedule and keep the momentum of your recovery moving forward?”
“And finally, we hold seminars for our newest patients that help them save money, get well faster and avoid a relapse. It lasts a little less than an hour and our next one is next Wednesday evening at 6:00 PM. Can I count on you to attend?
If portions of this imaginary scenario sound familiar and you can’t see the poor patient follow through that the patient revealed, before reading further, please reread the interchange above. Now, can you see what’s missing?
Chances are you were drawn to study the words of the chiropractor. “Oh, that’s a great way to say that,” you may have thought. “Never thought of wording it like that,” you may have noted. “I’m going to start asking it that way.”
True, the mythical chiropractor in the example above uses clear, precise and direct language. But that’s not the significant part! It’s the language used by the patient that’s so revealing. At first glance, it appears the patient is on board. But dig deeper and you’ll find one important word missing from all of the patient responses. The word?
Think about it. Sure, absolutely, of course, you bet, certainly and no problem all sound as if there’s agreement. But each one falls short. Each one is a "dirty yes." It leaves an out. It permits an excuse. It reveals that there are one or more barriers to their full commitment. Overlook this, and you’re needlessly surprised later by half-hearted compliance or unexplainable drop out. When you hear these “less-than-yes” responses, you might want to ask,
“What are some of issues or concerns that might stand in the way of you being able to fully embrace our recommendations?”
That’s when you may learn about the skeptical spouse, the financial pressures at home, the transportation issues stemming from your three-times-a-week visit recommendations or other barriers the patient has already accommodated (and revealed if you were listening) in his or her “yes-like” answer.
There may not be solutions to their challenges. However, you’ll discover a new level of clarity when you acknowledge that “sure” doesn’t mean “yes.” In fact, it rarely means yes!