Really listening to your client can mean the world to them. It also gives you a lot of information. Here are some tips to become an active listener:
- Be present. Take a breath between patients. Be sure that you are leaving anything outside that room outside. Discover what works best for you to ensure that you remain present. Most often it is making sure you take care of you!
- Verbally acknowledging that you hear them, “yes”, “right”, etc.
- Be sure that you captured all of the important information. Asking, “Is there anything else?”, lets the patient know you want to be thorough.
- Clarifying questions. Asking, “So what I'm hearing is...” or “It sounds like that was really frustrating/helpful/hard/etc. For you. Is that right?” shows empathy and that you really understand.
- Withholding judgement. When someone feels that they are in a place that they won't be judged, they can let go and seek the support they need. Awareness is key to releasing judgement. By being aware of our thoughts, we can let go of those that are not serving our patients.
- Give some space. Avoid interrupting or speaking directly after the patient has finished talking. By giving the patient some space, they are given permission to divulge the last details of their thoughts or explore the matter a little further. Often some really important stuff comes out at this time.
By creating some powerful questions for your patients even before your work together begins, you can not only learn their health history, but you may gain some powerful insight into their motivation, and confidence to move toward better health.
Ask open-ended questions about where they are, where they want to be, and what they believe they can do to get there is a great way to get started. It will help you discover their expectations and it will help them to reflect on what they can be responsible for improving their health. Furthermore, questions about how they feel now versus how they would feel in better health will increase their awareness on how powerful it would be to be in a better state of health. Lastly, by asking powerful questions you may discover any barriers that may have been stopping them from success in the past that could continue to get in the way. They could be external barriers (e.g. money, access to transportation, etc.), in which case you may be able to help them access resources to overcome these obstacles. There could also be internal barriers (e.g. negative self-belief, fears, etc). If this is the case, it may be helpful to talk these through with your patient or refer them to a coach or other support that will help encourage their momentum.
Here is a list of powerful questions that may help your patients increase their awareness:
- What would your life look like if you were in an optimal state of health? What types of activities would you do?
- What would you gain by living in a state of optimal health? What would you be giving up?
- How important is it to you to live in a better state of health?
- What advice would you give someone in your position?
- What has prevented you from living in an optimal state of health?
- How can you ensure that these things no longer stand in your way?
- What do you need to move closer to your vision of optimal health?
- Who can you recruit to help support you in your quest for better health?
A powerful question has the ability to bring mindfulness to a situation and allow the patient to reflect on how they can take responsibility for their health. The key is to keep it open-ended so that they have to dig a little deeper and give you more information!
As a patient, I believe that one of the best feelings I could takeaway from an appointment with my health practitioner would be that I had a choice in what to do to move me forward. As in the example above, I could be given a list of options and I choose which exercises (and how many) I could commit to incorporating into my daily routine.
Here is another example of a tool that could be given to a patient. It allows for choice, but also clarity on how to incorporate the change and how to ensure its success:
What can you do to take care of your liver?
This is a list of many different ways you could improve the function of your liver. Please circle any that you feel you could incorporate into your lifestyle:
|Avoid/eliminate alcohol||Avoid/eliminate caffeine||Drink 8-10 cups of water/day||Add lemon juice to your diet|
|Drink green tea||Eat more fruit||Eat more vegetables||Avoid/eliminate processed food|
|Eat more dark green veggies||Eat garlic||Eat grapefruit||Eat avocados|
|Eat walnuts||Take supplements||Practice meditation||Do yoga|
|Use natural cleaning products||Use an air purifier||exercise||Avoid eating 3hrs before bed|
|Incorporate flax seeds into diet||Avoid/eliminate use of sugar||Eliminate synthetic sweeteners||Avoid large meals|
|Avoid fatty foods||Eat carrots||Eat beets||Eat onions|
|Eat broccoli||Eat veggies raw or steamed||Do a cleanse||Quit smoking|
Of those you circled, please list the three easiest to incorporate into your lifestyle (#1 being the easiest of the three):
Would you be willing to commit to incorporating #1 into your lifestyle between now and our next appointment? Y N
Describe how incorporating this action item will look?
What do you need to have in place in order to ensure that you are successful in incorporating this into your lifestyle?
*PLEASE NOTE: This form was created strictly as an example. As I am NOT a health practitioner, I cannot recommend or endorse any of these health suggestions. You could replace this with anything from how to increase bone density to how to decrease back pain. YOU are the expert!
The Accountability Factor
Lastly, as you well know, you have no control over your patient after they leave your office. So how can you support them in being accountable for themselves? Here are some tricks that may help keep your patient empowered in between appointments.
- Let your patients know that you believe in them. A few kind words that you know they can do this can go a long way.
- As in the example asking, “On a scale from 1-10” questions can help you clarify how likely your patient is to commit to doing something. You can then dig a little deeper to find out what will help them to ensure that they follow through.
- Ensure the change is manageable. Notice in the example form, the patient is to pick the three easiest lifestyle changes and then to commit to only the first one. In order to create change that is sustainable and to set patients up for success it is important to start slowly. As they increase their confidence and learn how the changes make them feel better, they are more likely to stick with it.
- Ask the question. Ask your patient if it's okay with them if you check in on how the changes went at their next appointment. Or, ask them if they would like you to hold them accountable. Making the choice to have someone hold them accountable can be a powerful motivator.
- Taking a moment to acknowledge what it took for your patient to seek support can be very empowering. By continuing to acknowledge the work they are doing to improve their health will boost their confidence and support them to continue on their journey!
The knowledge, guidance, and support that you offer your patients is integral in their success. You are the expert in your field and you know how to get your patients where they want to go. I am hopeful that you have discovered a few more tricks and tools as to how to help empower your patients and keep them accountable for the changes that they seek. Coaching is a powerful process that takes people from good to great, and I truly believe that by blending some coaching into your work, you can provide your patients with an unforgettable experience!
“Core Competencies.” coachfederation.org. Stable Transit, Jan. 1998. Web. 21 June 2015.
“Power Listening.” learn.icoachacademy.com. ICA, Feb. 2014. Web. 22 June 2015.
“Powerful Questions.” learn.icoachacademy.com. ICA, Feb. 2014. Web. 22 June 2015.
“15 ways to boost your liver for great health.” care2.com. DYNECT, Nov. 2014. Web. 23 June 2015.
“How to cleanse the liver.” wikihow.com. DNSMADEEASY, Nov. 2014. Web. 23 June 2015.
“Accountability.” learn.icoachacademy.com. ICA, Feb. 2014. Web. 22 June 2015.