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You are a prop too

In any theatre where people interact- including your office- you are also a prop. Anyone who enters that room will react to you as much as they might respond to anything else in there. Your look, smell and sound will draw a reaction. You may not be able to change many of your attributes- but you can’t afford to be unaware of them.  How do you take this into account when you plan that interaction?

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Do you prepare to disappoint?

In any business there will be time when you don’t see eye to eye with your customer.  In fact there will be times when you disagree with them because what they want is either impossible, illegal, unavailable or otherwise difficult for you to deliver.

You might encounter that situation more than once in the course of your day. You expect it right? So if you are a doctor how do you prepare to deliver that news to a patient?

Once you’ve dumped your baggage and assumptions, approached patients with humanity and compassion, and discovered the real problem, what’s your next step? That depends upon what the real problem you discovered is. Is the problem something that is your fault or one you can solve? Did the patient have expectations that weren’t correct? Have an honest and forthright discussion with them. If you can do that, you’ll be getting thank you cards from your patients for a very long time. David J. Norris, MD

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Do you use aids to help you explain?

If your job involves explaining complicated ideas- and let’s face it nothing is simple in medicine- do you use models or aids of any kind?

if not, why not? If you do what do you use and how do you know they work? How do you explain sciatica, heart disease, asthma, cancer?

Physicians cannot control all the reasons for patients pursuing legal atonement but they are able to determine the quality of their connection with them, by improving their communication skills and techniques. Law-suits for medical negligence can be lowered or prevented by taking steps to keep patients content, thus making them more compliant to the treatment, adhering to the medical policies and procedures. Tevanov et al 

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Who talks most in your office?

Who’s voice is heard the most in your office? How do you know? Does it matter? How long before you interrupt the other person? What are you thinking while the other person speaks?

The most striking finding of these studies, however, is not the type, the goal, or even the ultimate effect of the interruptions. It is the fact that after asking patients to express their concerns, physicians were able to listen to patients’ stories for a median of only 18 to 23 seconds before interrupting in some fashion. JAMA

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Are you persuasive?

If your job involves advising- are you a credible source of advice? How do you know?  What can you do to make yourself a more influential? Apart from giving credible advice is there something you can do to make your advice more likely to persuade?

There’s a critical insight in all this for those of us who want to learn to be more influential. The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. To persuade optimally, then, it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally. But how?

In part, the answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenet of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next.
Robert B. Cialdini, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

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What do people see on your desk?

Okay so you might not have chosen the wall paper, the carpet or the size of your office but what’s on display on your desk? What impression is created at a glance? Do you look organised? Do you look like you’ve got the time to give your visitors some attention?

There are six reasons to clean off your desk and as Catherine Conlan suggests:

Remember, your workspace speaks for you even when you’re not there.

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What’s your vibe?

Do the people who seek your help sense that you are distinctive in some way? How? Is there anything remarkable about you? Your blue shirts? Your leather boots? Something that they immediately recognize as your ‘trademark’. According to Dana Lynch image consultant, your style matters for three reasons:

  1. People for impressions of you within a mere 3 seconds!

2. Your style makes you memorable.

3. Your style allows you to express who you are, which ultimately leads to an improved self-image and confidence.

If you are a doctor your patients will likely decide within seconds if they are going to take your advice.

Picture by Ronald Menti

How do you end your meetings?

We know how to start a meeting- we stand up, shake hands, say hello, smile. But what’s the best way to end a meeting? It matters for one reason:

The peak–end rule is a psychological heuristic in which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. The effect occurs regardless of whether the experience is pleasant or unpleasant. Wikipedia

If you are a doctor this is all the more important because people generally don’t seek a meeting with you because all is well. They may be experiencing all sorts of unpleasant feelings. So how do you end that meeting? How do you know it’s working?

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How does your skill at communicating manifest in your interactions?

It is assumed that doctors have to be specialists in communication. People will tell doctors things they may not confide in anyone else- much less a total stranger. That is part of the equity in the business of doctoring. So if you are a doctor, how does that manifest in your interactions with the people who seek your help? Is it reflected in your greetings? In your body language? In your eye contact? In the way you phrase your questions? In the way you terminate your meetings?

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When did your doctor last ‘do nothing’?

When was the last time your doctor, or you, if you were the doctor, ‘do nothing’ in the consultation? We don’t feel we have received or delivered value in the consultation unless we prescribe something, order a test or make a referral. But what does that tell us about the business of doctoring or the attitude to medicine?

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