Keeping it ‘BRIEF’
I am sure you are aware of the information overload we suffer in the Western World. Research suggests that we take in 174 newspapers worth of information daily (1), obsessively check our phones on average every 12 minutes (2) and have an attention span of about 8 seconds – less than goldfish! (3). We know that to get our message across to people we need to be succinct and to the point. However, it is my experience that we as chiropractors tend to forget this very important knowledge when we get into our practices.
When a family first presents to our office we are keen to make a good impression; we want to make sure that Mum and Dad understand what we are doing, feel comfortable with us and know how much we know. To this end we often talk and explain the whole first visit away: About retained primitive reflexes, what an AS occiput means, the effect of low muscle tone, what the sacral plexus is involved in, how gluten intolerance can upset nervous system function…. Now, don’t get me wrong! All this is important information, and definitely what the people who see us need to know and understand.
The problem is that it can be waaayyy too much information for that first impression, potentially causing double trouble: The parents may feel overwhelmed, confused and maybe even a bit concerned whether they have made the right decision bringing their little one to us. Even worse, we may talk ‘over the child’ and not involving him or her in what we are doing, risking that he/she feels bored or ignored.
Joseph McCormack, author of a book called ‘BRIEF: Making a Bigger Impact by Saying Less’ encourages us to really think about what it is we need and want to get across, and then verbalise that and nothing else. He suggests using the acronym BRIEF when communicating on a professional level. For us chiropractors during the first visit, it could look something like this:
B (Background): Provide a quick context: What is chiropractic?
R (Reason): Why chiropractic?
I (Information): What are the essential 2-3 points you want them to know
E (End): Link their child to what you’ve just talked about
F (Follow-up): Check in that they are OK and ask for permission to proceed to exam.
So, getting back to the picture: Once you have listened carefully to the child and the parents about the concerns that have brought them to you, let your examination do the talking!
Pre-frame your examination using BRIEF communication: what you will be looking for and how the exam will demonstrate this. Then concentrate solely on connecting and communicating with the child while you let your exam demonstrate both your skills and the child’s underlying problem. When finished, succinctly state what you found and what it means and what you can do to help. Some people will want to know more, which is great – you know they are interested, will tune in and remember. Others will not – and you know they will leave with the knowledge you have chosen to give them.
And if you made it to the end of this – congratulations, you have the attention span of a genius! I hope you have an opportunity to give BRIEF communication a go today.
- The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin