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Living In Your Head

head-living.jpgMany newer chiropractors seem to believe that merely outfitting an office in a highly-trafficked location, hanging up a sign and doing a great job is all that is needed to be successful. That may have been almost true in the 1980s when everyone had insurance with $100 deductibles. But today, that is merely the admission ticket into the arena of professional practice.

What so many chiropractors seem to overlook is that chiropractic is a personality-based small business. Naturally, if you don’t have one, it can be a handicap.

If you don’t tend to be outgoing, leaning toward the introverted side things and generally shun social settings in which you’ll encounter strangers, a busy, successful practice is more difficult to achieve. Not impossible, but difficult. Because patients see you “living in your head.” It can prompt one or more unhelpful patient perceptions that can thwart your practice.

Tragically, chiropractic colleges, living hand-to-mouth on student tuition dollars are either unaware how certain personality styles can handicap a graduate’s practice, or are not motivated to warn students how their introversion may constrain their careers. Based on my experience working with students at several of the top chiropractic colleges, dissuading students who are academically and financial able to take on the curriculum, yet lacking the social skills that patients find reassuring, would put a considerable dent in what are already depressed enrollment figures.

“Why should we rain on their parade and be a dream stealer?” rationalizes the Admissions Department.

Why? Because withholding this information produces untold suffering years later. The unwarned graduate exhausts mom and dad’s retirement nest egg, defaults on their student loans and blemishes the reputation of the profession as one more practice closes its doors after a mere six or nine months of emotionally-wrenching struggle.

What are some of the patient perceptions of chiropractors who live in their heads? As a patient myself, I know of at least these three:

Uncertainty. Like the first time you drove a car, inexperience can produce a type of awkwardness as every intellectual and physical faculty is brought to bear on the task at hand. Showing up distant and uncommunicative can lead to patients question your skills and confidence.

Aloofness. Long periods of silence and was seen as a withdrawn indifference can suggest to patients that you are not present. Chiropractors with the tendency to worry about their debt, ruminate over an argument with their spouse or who multiply the number of patients on the book by their fees are often seen in this light.

Judgment. This one can get assigned to chiropractors who may have expressed even the slightest disappointment over a patient’s unwillingness to quit smoking, lose weight or make other lifestyle changes. As patients try to make meaning of your reserved, tight-lipped demeanor, they may assume they’ve disappointed or let you down.

Does this mean you should show up as a Chatty Kathy and dominate patient encounters with a constant self-indulgent commentary? Of course not. That would be equally unhelpful, just at the opposite extreme!

If you have the ear of someone within one of the chiropractic colleges how about…

…encouraging them to administer a basic personality test and help new students become aware of their introversion tendencies?

…inspiring these students to acquire public speaking skills while still in college?

…directing them to practice being “aggressively friendly” and studying the social skills of busy chiropractors?

…reminding them that their talent for test taking will be almost valueless in the real world of private practice?

And if you’re one of those successful, outgoing chiropractors, how about…

…donating money, property or your estate to your chiropractic Alma matter so they can establish an endowment and reduce their direct dependency on tuition dollars?

Comments (4)

Robert bean:

As an introvert, I can get easily self involved. Meaning that I can over cerebrate and concerned, and worried. Its so important to lose yourself in the care of others, this brings out compassion and thoughtfulness, and helps anticipate the needs of others. But after a long day of doing this you do need some down time to recover.

Jan Teitelbaum DC:

As a basic introvert, my success is based on excelling in the other qualities of practice. My technical certainty. My compassion and genuineness or authenticity. After watching the NBA finals tonight, it's like JJ Barrea. If you are a pro in the NBA and you are less than 6 feet tall you better have your skill set mastered because you are starting with a deficit. But desire and commitment and persisitency has worked for me in my 30+ years of practice.

Fortunately for me, I already knew while in chiropractic school that my (severe!) introversion would be a huge handicap to success in private practice. So, I took a number of film acting classes, which helped me to see how I came across through the eyes of others (on camera, etc.) and helped me to work on my speaking voice, body language, etc. (not to mention helped me to meet new people -- some of whom became patients). My current practice coaches still encourage me to record my exams, report of findings visits, etc. and to listen back to them to learn and improve. This is often a painful but HUGELY helpful exercise, because I can hear when I am falling back "into my head" and not being clear enough with the loving authoritative communication that patients crave. Introverts can definitely be successful in practice, and I think that the asset is a heightened sensitivity and perhaps increased capacity for compassion, particularly when working with patients who are introverts.


For introverts who are already Chiropractors, how can introversion become an asset in practice?

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From June 9, 2011 11:09 AM

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