This is part four in a five-part series on building your chiropractic practice (start at part one).
Today’s contributor is Dr. Russ Rosen. A dynamic and passionate chiropractor, author, international coach, educator and speaker, Russ ran one of the most successful wellness practices in Maui, Hawaii for 14 years.
Dr. Rosen is best known for his “Patient Care” vs. “Patient Scare” Wellness Communication systems and is the founder and CEO of The Optimal Health Chiropractic System.
Communicate More Effectively with Patients
Most chiropractors were set up to struggle in chiropractic college through the way they learned anatomy, neurology and chiropractic technique.
The professor spoke. We took notes. We regurgitated the information back onto the test. And we moved through the system. Out in practice, we make the huge mistake of modeling our chiropractic patient communications after the way we experienced it in educational institutions.
And it’s not working.
Powerful Neurological Filter
What you and I were taught to do is communicate neocortex to neocortex – in other words, through logic and reasoning. Only then can the information make it to the limbic system and become a positive new belief system.
However, before any information can make it up to the neocortex for thinking and reasoning, potentially leading to a new positive belief system, it has to first pass through the filter of the reptilian brain.
The reptilian brain filters everything. Is this important? Is this relevant? Does that matter? Is this dangerous? Do I believe that?
(In fact, your reptilian brain is at work right now, determining whether to continue reading this.)
My point is that when you communicate with patients, to have any chance of truly connecting with and influencing patient behavior, you must first get past their reptilian brain. And most chiropractors virtually ignore this simple neurological reality.
Most of us have learned the simple skills necessary to feign interest. Patients are often masters in this. They offer just the right amount of eye contact, and they nod their head at just the right time. It’s easy to get sucked in to believing that we’re making a connection. Oh, they heard us, but they weren’t actually listening. The sound waves were striking their eardrums, but their neocortex wasn’t engaged. In fact, it was busy trying to recall whether they had thawed any hamburger for dinner!
We need to relearn how to communicate with patients.
How to Get Past the Patient’s Reptilian Brain
How do you get past the guard standing watch over your patients’ neocortex? How do you make it easier for the reptilian brain to send your message up to the neocortex? Easy – you make your story about their story.
If I’m making my story about their story, I’m not telling them about chiropractic – I’m weaving the value of chiropractic into their story, and I’m asking questions. And I know my message is getting past their reptilian brain because when I ask them questions, they’re providing answers – answers that can come from no other place than the reasoning of the neocortex.
Now, one of two things happens. Either the patient believes the implications and conclusions of their reasoning, or they don’t. If they do, it’s evaluated by their limbic system (Is this safe? Is this true? Do I accept this as a positive new belief system?). If we can speak to the reptilian brain and engage it, then all we have to do is make sure what we say makes sense. And the good thing about chiropractic is that it makes sense.
Chiropractors simply need to embrace a new mindset.
“Why Do You Think That Is?”
One of the crucial mistakes that many chiropractors make is that they enter the conversation with the attitude of “I’m here to educate you.” That’s classic neocortex-to-neocortex communications.
The other, more effective mindset is “I’m here to engage your reptilian brain.” You do this by demonstrating curiosity and asking questions. And one of the most helpful questions is “Why do you think that is?” As in…
“You mentioned that you seem to get these headaches every day or so. Why do you think that is?”
“You said that you’ve tried chiropractic before, but your problem has returned. Why do you think that is?”
“You revealed that you’ve been unable to get your husband to come in. Why do you think that is?”
When you frame patient communications in this way, you accomplish two things. First, you enter their story in a powerful way. You prove that you were listening and that you care. Second, you get past their reptilian brain. Well done.
Rather than showing up as a brainiac with all the answers, show up curious about them, their experiences, their beliefs, their frustrations and their worries related to their health issues.
Be prepared for “I don’t know” or “I’ve never really thought about it” or “That’s a good question.” Those are the sounds of an engaged neocortex, anxious for resolution.
By creating tension, you capture their attention.
Ask Before You Tell
Now they want answers. And they’re looking to you for those answers. With this level of engagement, you can be sure that the information you offer up is more likely to land on fertile soil and take root.
And that’s the point, isn’t it?
If you have not helped them recognize that they want what you’re about to tell them, it won’t get to their neocortex because the reptilian brain will have filtered it out. By asking questions based on their story, you ensure that they will invite you in. They’re leaning forward. They’re listening. They want what you have. All you did was help them recognize that you have something they want. And that’s what grows practices.
Perhaps one of the most powerful practice-building tips is the observation that the new patients you seek actually come from you rather than to you. We’ll unpack that in Practice Building Tip #5.