“Hi, my name is Steven and I’m a patient pleaser.”
No, there isn’t a 12-Step Program for patient pleasers, but if there were, plenty of chiropractors would be attending. Apparently, when you choose a profession like chiropractic that doesn’t fit into the accepted mainstream model, you have two choices. Either dumb down chiropractic and round off the sharp edges to make it something more palatable, or morph yourself into something you think will get patients to like you. Both are common strategies that produce unhelpful and counterproductive results.
Perverting chiropractic or contorting your personality in the hopes of being more attractive, acceptable or influential is the ultimate sellout. Eventually it makes you feel dark inside. It requires massive amounts of energy to sustain and turns practice into a joyless routine of fixing spines and biting your tongue.
If you find yourself in one or both of these circumstances, you may find the following observations helpful.
Strategy One – Compromising Chiropractic
Many chiropractors will diminish chiropractic, reducing it to a mere mechanical intervention to alleviate the pain caused by joint fixation for several motives:
Be the hero. Since most patients bring their experience with medical doctors with them, the path of least resistance is to show up as a doctor who fixes spines. Restoring biomechanical integrity to the spine can often reduce pain syndromes without drugs or surgery. Patients are appreciative. You get the accolades. At least until you encounter patients for which you doctoring doesn’t seem to work. Oops.
Avoid confrontation. Reducing chiropractic to a spinal specialty and choosing not to explain the patient’s responsibilities is understandable. Most patients have been taught to assume a passive role when consulting health professionals. Uncovering and confronting patients about their unhealthy habits or lifestyle choices can be difficult or awkward. Especially if you’re not walking the talk. Ouch.
Ignorance. If you attended one of the colleges that teach a purely mechanistic, cookbook approach to chiropractic, you may be unaware of the philosophical and metaphysical implications and chiropractic principles on which your adjustments are based. Yes, you can thrust along the spine at opportune places and produce patient-pleasing results, but you miss the richness and significance of what you’re doing. Worse, it makes it impossible to understand how other practitioners can see 50-100 or more patients a day without breaking a sweat.
Strategy Two – Chiropractor Compromise
Another way many chiropractors blunt their impact and reduce their influence is to assume a chameleon-like personality, morphing into something different based upon what they think each patient wants.
Being friends. If you try to get your social needs met at the office, you probably fall prey to this one. Apparently, the thinking goes like this: If I can befriend the patient, they will like me. If they like me, they’ll more likely do what I ask. If they do what I ask, they’re get results and really like me. Whether this is the result of some emotional bruising left over from high school, it’s hard to know. But it’s just not true. Look around. The people we most deeply respect are those who often take unpopular stands, exhibit high standards and convict us to be our best. Be friendly, but not friends.
The firewall proxy. Your computer has one of these to keep viruses, malware and other nasties from corrupting its operation. Similarly, when you show up as the “doctor,” “healer” or “health coach” you’re acting. Playing a role. It’s a brilliant defense mechanism that can protect you when patients reject your recommendations or abandon you without a word. Only problem is, you’re not that good of an actor. So you need consultants to feed you your “lines.” Patient relationships take on an inauthentic artificiality that are devoid of intimacy or influence.
If, after a bit of introspection, you find yourself amongst one or more of these descriptions, fear not. You can change today. Sure, it may prompt a few patients to reject you when you come out of the closet, share your deepest convictions and reveal your true personality. That’s a small (and temporary) price to pay to reclaim your life spirit. Contrast that with the benefits:
More energy. Without having to act or filter every word you utter, you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm with which to deliver your care. The result? Your practice grows.
Authentic relationships. Without the persona, you can finally attract your tribe of like-minded individuals. Abandon the lie that you’re unlikeable! The result? Your practice grows.
Longer lasting relationships. When you share the complete story about chiropractic, getting beyond the pain relief aspects, more and more patients see the lifestyle advantages and adopt schedules of periodic checkups. The result? Your practice grows.
No longer angry with patients. Nothing produces resentment like having to compromise who we are. When you honor yourself and recognize each patient’s free will to accept or reject your recommendations, there’s less need to take their choices personally. The result? Your practice grows.
Partnerships emerge. When you tell the complete chiropractic story, you don’t have to carry patients. It becomes more of a partnership. Patients assume responsibility for what is theirs. You focus on what is yours. The result? Your practice grows.
An inordinate need to be liked keeps your practice small, easy to manage and frankly, insignificant. It’s a form of poor social health that interferes with your ability to be an influencer and an effective change agent. It’s exactly what the enemies, doubters, skeptics and naysayers of chiropractic are hoping will continue to constrain you.
Reminds me of the admonition we’ve all heard during the airplane safety demo. “Put on your mask before helping others, and continue using until advised by a crewmember.” In other words, you need a spine before you can possibly help others with theirs.