Many 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 Long periods of silence and was seen as a withdrawn indifference can suggest to patients that you are not present.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?