Preventing Mixed Messages that Sabotage Your Success – Kim Klapp

Hello, ChiroSecure viewers. Thank you for joining me today. I’m Kim Klapp, founder of Assistants for Chiropractic Excellence. But before I get started on a how to prevent the mixed messages that sabotage your success, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to ChiroSecure. I so appreciate how amazing they are. Not only do they sponsor these programs, but they also support the profession in so many other generous ways. Now, we all know that ChiroSecure has the best coverage, hands down, plus exceptional customer service. They’re a fabulous resource. I’m also grateful that you’ve chosen to watch. In addition to my coaching program that I started in 2000, I’ve been managing my husband, Dr. Tom’s practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan since we got married 25 years ago today. Today is also his practice anniversary of 40 years, so congratulations Dr. Tom, if you’re tuning in. With that experience in mind, if you have any questions, hiring, training, practice systems, just post them and I’ll be happy to answer either during today’s show or afterwards.

But today I’m going to share a snippet of information from CA Excellence coaching course this month on communication strategies. Now, personally, I’ve studied the communication strategies since my college days at University of Michigan, and I’ve come to realize that what the Carnegie Foundation asserted still holds true today. Let’s take a look at those slides.

85% of one’s success in life is directly related to communication skills. 85%, that is huge. Now, this is especially important in your practice because it enables you to maximize patient compliance, retention, volume, collections and referrals, while minimizing stress. While I’m a huge fan of learning pat responses for all those questions that come up with a prospective new patient on the phone. Oh, by the way, if you’d like a file of the pat responses that you see on the screen, just go to Anyway, like I was saying, these pat responses are super important and so are those for overcoming obstacles at the front desk. You’re scripting for your welcome consultations, financial consultations, pretty much everything. Again, I’m a huge fan of scripts.

However, what do you say comprises only 7% of how people gauge you. 38% of how people gauge you is determined by how you say it, your inflection, your tone, et cetera. The majority, however, 55%, is based on nonverbal cues. Your vibes, your energy, your passion, your enthusiasm, basically who you are, what you emanate. That’s why your mindset and your certainty about chiropractic is so critical to your success. The scripts are just a starting place, but that’s why the magic ingredient of communication that often gets overlooked, causing a stumbling block for your success, is nonverbal communication. As you can see, it comprises 93%. With that in mind, the first step is awareness. Do you realize that in a single interaction, approximately 1,000 nonverbal factors help convey your message?

Let me give you two versions of the same scenario. In the first, a dad is reading the news on his iPad and the living room. His son runs into the living room waving his report card over his head and shouts, “Hey, Dad, I got an A.” The dad, not changing his stance at all, still focused on the iPad, says, “Good job.” Now, imagine how the son feels in this scenario. He probably goes away feeling sad and dejected. But now, take two on that scenario, the dad’s still sitting in the living room, still reading the news on his iPad. His son runs in and shouts, “Hey, Dad, I got an A.” In this version though, the dad puts down his iPad, looks his son in the eye and says, “Good job.” Same words, but in this version, the son walks away feeling really good about himself. We always want to make sure that our nonverbal communication helps our clients feel as acknowledged and appreciated as they are.

The next step is to evaluate if you’re sending a different nonverbal message than you want to. Now, because when words and body language conflict, we tend to believe what we see. Now, think about when someone grits their teeth and crosses their arms and says, “No, of course I’m not mad.” Well, body language is instinctive. So think about your body language. If you happen to be talking to someone and you’re shifting and twitching and nervously dropping papers and scrambling hastily to pick them up, what message does that send? Probably not the one you intend, so I want to cover five steps to better body language.

The first is to limit the fidget. Rubbing your arm, recrossing your legs, pulling on your ear, scratching your nose, wiggling, squirming, you name it. Even if you’re telling your patients the truth verbally, the more you fidget, the more you’re perceived as lying, especially when you put your hand by your mouth. So I don’t care how much something itches, just ignore it. If you’re constantly nodding, it comes across as hurry up, I don’t have time for this. So again, you want to limit the fidget.

Number two is posture. Now, we want to constantly exhibit good posture. Not just because you’re a billboard for chiropractic care, but because it also helps your clients feel comfortable and confident with you. We want to be balanced. Point your feet towards the person you’re speaking to rather than out the door, because this demonstrates that you’re interested in what they’re saying, versus, oh, I wished I was somewhere else, and turn your entire body towards them. You’re constantly giving off signals and it’s those signals that telegraph whether you’re open or closed off to what someone’s saying. Think about the difference between looking at someone with narrowed eyes versus wide eyes, between leaning back versus leaning forward towards someone, between holding your hands in a fist versus holding your palms up, arms crossed versus arms open at your sides. Because a closed body language indicates a closed mind and we want to be conscious to exhibit open and balanced posture.

Number three is eye contact. Communication should occur from above down. That’s in alignment with our above, down, inside out chiropractic philosophy. With communication, it’s eyes first, then ears, then mouth. Now, there’s a University of Missouri study where female researchers made eye contact with strange men at a bar. Not sure to how to land a job like that, but anyway. Sometimes these women smiled after glancing over, and other times they didn’t. When the women just made eye contact, the strange man approached them 20% of the time. However, when they smiled afterwards, the approach rate was 60%. That’s three times higher. So make sure to put out the welcome mat by smiling.

Now, in addition to the eye contact, number four is facial expression. That can completely change the meaning of your message. If you’re rolling your eyes while you’re saying something, there’s a huge difference, right? When you smile, there’s a difference between a pursed lip smile and one that shows teeth. We want to use a warm, open smile and embrace the 10-4 rule. Remember, that’s to make eye contact when someone’s 10 feet away and then add a smile when they’re four feet away. Number five is space relationship, because when you’re too far away, that suggests that you find them offensive, to close and you’re violating their personal space. So we want to find a happy medium.

Now that we’ve tackled body language, let’s move onto speech. First of all, consider the pace of speech. Too slowly can send a message that you don’t think they’re smart enough to understand you, while too quickly can send a message that you’re too busy to care. Again, we want to find that happy medium. Then consider the tone of your speech. Obviously, sarcasm can completely change your message, or at least the meaning of your message. When it comes to your reactivation phone calls or those I care calls in your office, I find it really helpful to keep the tone light and friendly. That’s where we’re going to help patients realize that they’re welcome back versus that, hey, we’re mad or I’m scolding or they’re in trouble.

Then also consider your actions and the message it sends when you, for example, excuse yourself from the dialogue numerous times, or when you make your clients wait unnecessarily. If you’re doing these things while explaining your role as their personal client advocate and trying to communicate how much you care, obviously there’s going to be a conflict there between what you’re saying and your nonverbal cues. These are all important factors in attaining a congruence of message, and we’ll talk about that in a moment. But remember for now, it’s the perception that’s important, not the intention.

I just like to use this [inaudible 00:09:31] as a mnemonic device. I found this in this book, How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You. No, I wasn’t looking to replace Dr. Tom, but I was getting my hair done and someone said it was great. The S is for smile. The O is for open body, remember to face the client and keep your arms open. The F is for forward lean, lean towards them. The T is for touch, we want to build that kinesthetic bond. The E is for eye contact, we talked about that. And the N is for nod. These nonverbal cues, S.O.F.T.E.N, will help your client understand that you’re listening.

Now, let me back up and cover what I call Communication 101. I apologize to the gentlemen watching, this is really one of my favorite T-shirts. Think about when are you communicating. Hopefully you realize that you always are communicating. Ask yourself exactly what messages that you’re sending. What are you conveying? All too often we mistake speaking for communication, or we focus on one or two elements instead of recognizing that there are three elements of communication, the speaker, the message, and the listener. It’s not enough to be a terrific listener or an articulate speaker, because it takes a combination of both of those, along with a clear message, to be effective at communication.

So much of how we communicate is just a habit. We don’t even think about how we’re speaking or how we’re listening or what exactly we’re saying. That’s why I covered dozens of strategies for listening, speaking, and the message in this month’s ACE course. But I’d like to share my metaphor for one of the message strategies. Here we’ve got three people standing in a triangle, and for our metaphor we’re going to make one a CA, one a DC, and one a patient. Now, in the middle of that triangle is the pedestal, and on top of the pedestal is a ball. Now, if we ask the chiropractor what color is the ball, the doctor answers orange. If we ask the CA, the CA says pink, and the patient replies blue. Whoa, wait a second. They’re all looking at the same ball, right? Well, yes, but it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s a matter of perspective. If each person would just walk around to another position, they’d realize that it’s a beach ball and each person is just looking at a different Stripe.

We need to keep that in mind when we’re speaking with people who are different from ourselves. As a CA, you have a different perspective than your doctor and a different perspective from your patients. There’s all kinds of perspective differences. For example, when I say I’ll be ready in a minute, it’s not the 60-seconds minute. It’s more like a football minute. But it’s these perspective differences that can easily cause miscommunications. When I asked Dr. Tom if the houseplant that he was sitting next to was dry, I was expecting him to reach over, feel the soil. However, not having a green thumb, he reached over to feel a leaf instead. Yep.

Let’s talk about how to avoid those mixed messages, and there’s two steps. The first is to consider the perspective of your listener. When a prospective new patient calls and asks about fees, does your CA counter with, “Do you have insurance?” Well, think about the message that sends. While I understand that you may be trying to give them information specific to their coverage, when you ask about insurance before the reason for their visit, what comes across as most important to your practice, the person or the money? Right.

After you consider the perspective of your listener, the next step is to define what you mean. At the front desk, when a client comes up and asks what time they should be in Wednesday morning and the CA,, who wants to be liked replies, “Oh, anytime. It doesn’t matter,” think about what message that sends about appointments in your office. You’re letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that the time they show up is unimportant, that appointment times don’t matter. Be careful about sending that mixed message.

Or what if someone calls to cancel their appointment because they’re symptomatic? Do you say, “Oh, well, come in when you’re feeling better”? Hopefully not. We want to take that opportunity instead to educate them that their body is sending them unmistakable signals that they need care and let adjustments speed their healing, so come on in as soon as possible. Or how about when someone apologizes for missing their appointment? Do you say, “Oh, no problem. That’s okay. Don’t worry about it,” or, “It’s no big deal”? Well, hopefully not. Because when people miss their appointments, it is a problem. It’s not okay, it’s something to worry about, and it really is a big deal.

Again, to prevent mixed messages, consider the perspective of your listener and define what you mean. Understand that communication really is a quality and a service issue. People appreciate, pay for, and refer more based on exceptional quality and service. Now, that being said, clear communication is a skill that takes time, consciousness, and effort. The good news though is that the more you excel at clear communication, the more your practice will enjoy higher volume, higher collections, with less stress.

Again, if you have any questions, just add them to the comments and I’ll be happy to respond. If I can help you in any way, whether you’re looking for this month’s CA Excellence coaching on communication strategies, or training for new CAs, hiring systems or practice systems, please visit my website,, and click to call or email me directly. I would love to help your team reach higher levels of excellence. Thanks again to ChiroSecure for providing this forum to increase your chiropractic success. Your host next week will be the amazing Dr. Sherry McAllister from the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, so be sure to tune in.

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