Skip to main content

Get a better result from your patients

How can you get a better result from you patients? Put simply, stop asking “why”.
As a coach, we are trained to rarely (if ever) ask the question why. I can hear you saying “why?” to this very question! It’s a simple word, and it may elicit some vital information during the course of the consultation, and as a chiropractor, you might find yourself asking this question on a regular basis.

The stark reality is, that simple, three-letter word “why” can be the barrier that prevents you from building rapport with your patients and creating a trusting relationship.

I’m going to ask you a little question.
Why did you become a chiropractor?
What would your answer be?
Because I wanted to help people without giving them drugs or surgery.
Now, let me ask you another question.
What made you decide to become a chiropractor?

This time, you might say….
When I was younger, I experienced chiropractic care following the result of an injury, and it changed the way I viewed healthcare. I realised I could help people without giving them drugs or surgery and thought it was a really cool profession to be involved in.
Do you see how by simply changing the question to avoid the word “why”, you’ve been able to elicit a lot more information, and elicited a more descriptive, interesting narrative.

So what is it about “why” questions that cause these problems?

Why questions make people justify their actions, desires or decisions. It forces the respondent to find a socially acceptable response.  When you ask the question “why”, you’ll most likely hear the word “because” in reply. Asking why forces someone to go on the defence, justifying their reasons rather than providing information- and as a healthcare practitioner, it’s information you’re after. When we’re put on the defensive, we’re explaining the reasons behind the decision, as opposed to giving information- you’ve put the patient on the back foot and instantly damaged the rapport that’s oh-so-vital to a successful course of care and trusting doctor-patient relationship.

What’s more, asking why implies some judgement behind it.

Take this as a further example- you’re in clinic with a patient who’s in pain or distress, and you know there’s emotion involved. The patient mentions that they haven’t done the exercises you advised they do, and your response is “Why not?”. They’re not going to volunteer information, they’re going to shut down and immediately start defending themselves. “Because it hurt too much, because I didn’t have time, because I find them too difficult.” Fine, you’ve explained why it hasn’t been done, but the patient hasn’t identified any way to ensure that they actually do what they need to do in order to get better. They’re completely stuck, and you’ve shut down any forward motion.
So this is where I encourage my coachees to ask the question “what” instead- in fact, I recommend you completely ban the word “why” from your vocabulary for 24 hours just to see how powerful it can be to use the word “what” instead. When a patient tells you they haven’t done the exercises, don’t ask them why- ask them “What can you do to make sure you complete your exercises?”
Asking “what” helps show patients the way forward, by helping them to identify options and practical steps that they might need to do in order to create a forward-facing action to help them along the path to recovery. 
Now, instead of justifications, you should hear more useful responses such as:
“I need to speak to you to see if there is an easier exercise I can do.”
“During my work day, I need to set a reminder to make sure I remember to do my exercises.”
“I need to print out a copy of my exercise sheet so I can remember how to do them.”
Much more useful responses, and the patient has given you some really useful information about the reasons behind their actions (or lack thereof), without being put on the defensive, without being forced to justify themselves and with a real focus on positive changes.
Give it a go- ban the word why from your vocabulary this week and see what a difference it makes to your day. Tweet me here with your insights. 

Find out more about coaching and how it can help you retrain your mindset and make you more able to accomplish your goals in life, no matter how big or small. 

How else can you learn coaching skills with us?

Start our dedicated online course here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *