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Comfortable in Your Own Skin

imposter.jpgIt appears that economic forces are conspiring to root out those in the chiropractic profession who are irrelevant, inauthentic or just misguided. Naturally, this is painful for those whose dreams of helping people by delivering chiropractic care are being called into question. The open market can be a strict disciplinarian. For many who have practiced the majority of their careers under the “price supports” offered by insurance carriers, today’s realities can be a rude, if not harsh wake up call.

Price supports? Like the government that props-up the price of corn, wheat or soybeans, during the Insurance Era chiropractors benefited from insurance policies that paid inflated fees for services that few cash-paying (free market) patients could or would pay for. This prompted many chiropractors to toy with the notion of a dual (and illegal) fee system, charging patients with insurance policies a higher fee than those who didn’t have insurance or had exhausted their benefits.

This is a subplot of a far greater drama that plays out as some chiropractors go to extraordinary lengths in the pursuit of being “successful.”

Turns out, many chiropractors believe that to be successful they must use someone else’s procedures and words. In other words, I will “act” like a successful chiropractor and then I will then become one.

Sorry. It won’t work. In fact, it hasn’t. If you were that good of an actor, you’d be on Broadway or in Hollywood making far more money. Your pathetic performance may convince enough patients with great policies to drop in until they feel better, but if you have few people willingly reaching into their pocket or purse to pay cash for your unique and nonduplicative healing art, you are either not explaining what you do in a compelling and patient-relevant way, or they can tell you’re unconvincingly reading from cue cards. Not just acting, but poor acting!

“But Bill, you don’t understand. I couldn’t possibly be successful if I showed up as myself.”

Ouch. Is that it? If so, there’s a simple solution: a personality transplant.

Just kidding.

Granted, there are many who made it through the book learning and test taking of chiropractic college who were not told along the way that their deeply analytical or amiable personality trait would make it difficult to have the tableside manners, engaging personality and communication skills that patients would find attractive. Until chiropractic colleges enjoy endowments large enough to turn away, or at least alert such tuition-bearing candidates, this is unlikely to change. In the mean time, instead of acting like a doctor, how about acting like a chiropractor? You can become unbelievably powerful (and attractive) when you tell the truth and become mindful of what and who you actually are. You may not consciously lie to patients, but when you deliver well-rehearsed lines written by someone else, trying to be someone you are not, patients can smell it a mile away.

This is about the Law of Identity. Who are you? Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do you recognize appropriate boundaries? Do you overstep your cultural authority? Do you abuse the social contract you have with patients? Do you acknowledge your limitations? Do you inappropriately accept credit (or blame) for the patient’s progress or lack of it?

Become reacquainted with these truths and show up in a way that is congruent with them. And if you’re bold, you might consider communicating to patients differently based on them:

The bone is “out of place” for a reason. Thrusting into their spine without addressing the physical, emotional or chemical stressor(s) that produced the defense posture called subluxation is classic symptom treating. Allopathically treating their subluxation turns chiropractic into a natural, but inconvenient analgesic.

You don’t fix patients. If there’s going to be any “fixing” the patient’s body is going to do it, not you. You may be a partner, facilitator or agent in that process, but you’re not doing it. (Bet most of your happy, but inactive, patients think you “fixed” them. And then blame you when they have their inevitable relapse.)

You are not the hero. The patient brings more to your table than what you do on it. It is their God-given ability to heal that is to be celebrated, not you, not your technique or your care plan. Taking even a shred of credit is a form of stealing. If you have a trophy case of inactive patient files, you may have been seduced by patient gushings about how wonderful you are.

You have no idea how or if the patient will respond. Predicting that you can reduce their visits to twice a week after a month of three times a week is a form of fortune telling. It’s a nice script though. You may have said it so many times you actually believe it.

Patient follow through is based on how they prioritize their health. There is little you can say or do to change the way patients prioritize their health. Even after something as earthshaking as triple by-pass surgery, many patients return to their smoking and unhealthy diet within months afterwards. Thinking you can say something to change their deeply held beliefs is a disempowering hallucination.

Trust patients to avail themselves of as much care as they want. If you mistrust of patients because you’re afraid they’ll sabotage your intentions or ruin your reputation by not following your recommendations, you are in a self-created prison. They can detect your mistrust. No wonder they leave without saying goodbye.

No more bluffing. If you find yourself using phrases like, “It’s our office policy that…” or “Our spinal care classes are mandatory…” or “We expect all of our patients will…” you’re bluffing. This is the tactic of an insecure bully who secretly knows he’s powerless, and instead, invokes a made-up policy or actually threatens patients in the hopes of getting them to do the “right” thing.

You don’t need to “act” if you take a stand for the truth. There is little power in being an imposter. It may not make you popular, it may require courage, it may not produce an immediate return on your investment and it will likely feel uncomfortable. However, it produces a lasting kind of soul-satisfying confidence and a depth of character that patients find profoundly attractive, regardless of what the media says about the economy.

Comments (3)

rod handly:

What you say is the absolute truth that I have experienced in my 35 years of practice. There are no magic scripts or acts. I have played them all and have been caught at it.

People know.

The power comes from your perfect uniqueness. People do what they do. Have fun being of service to people; don't make it hard.

Thanks Bill for telling it like it is.

Nicholas Hightower:

I have to say that I agree with your points. The more I hear about "what it takes to be successful" and some of the practices of practice management companies the more I ask myself "how about being truly genuine and passionate about what you're doing?" It seems to me that the rest will fall into place if you are genuine and ORIGINAL about your health care delivery. Glad to know that I'm not alone in this view.

Tony Russo:

How many of us "haven't" been guilty of at least one of your points? Looking over your list, I've been guilty of all of them at least a time or two. Guess I know what I have to do.

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From February 4, 2009 9:18 AM

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