Science vs. Emotion in Public Education – Dr. Janice Hughes

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Hello. My name is Dr. Janice Hughes, and welcome to today’s show of Growth Without Risk. I’d first like to start by saying how honored I am to be part of the ChiroSecure team, do the Growth Without Risk show, and just thank Dr. Hoffman and his entire team for all that he does and provides in profession. It’s been a time this spring where with lots of turmoil, lots of things happening, and they’ve really stepped up and done the weekly updates and lots of really interesting shows, so I just want to say thank you to our sponsor ChiroSecure.

I also today want to acknowledge the tumultuous world that we live in and a lot that is happening, and instead of going with a show that I’d asked a certain guest to come on, I think it’s just really important today to talk about who we are as chiropractors and how do we navigate right now post COVID, or I shouldn’t even say I’d like to call out post COVID, but also with the civil unrest right now. I just think it’s important we acknowledged that, and what tends to happen then for myself as an individual or any of you listening is we have some really strong ideas and opinions related to everything that’s happening in the world.

Now, the interesting thing is I want to talk about that today, because I want to talk about what I’ll call sort of the science versus the emotion. Or a better way to label it, I’d like to call it a distinction of fact versus fiction, because what happens is you or I through COVID, through the civil unrest, we’re in our practices and thank goodness the majority of states and countries are now at least opening chiropractic offices back up some, and some of you have been running full through this whole thing, and you’re around a lot of people. Your patients want to come in and talk about what’s happening in the world, or ask you your opinions, your ideas, and lives within our communities. I’m not even in private practice and I’m being asked by neighbors, by people when I’m out walking the dog or hiking a dog, anyone in my community that tends to know I have a health background they’re asking me questions, and I like you would love to just hit them with science about COVID or particularly this mask issue.

I’m in a very conservative state. I live in Boulder, Colorado, and typically Boulder is pretty liberal and it’s really conservative right now. I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s been a real shutdown and lockdown for chiropractors, so we have mandated masks. Well that rubs up against every fiber of mine. I’m a philosophical chiropractor. I live a natural life. You and most of you listening, we know too much. And so the tendency is that we want to tell that. I like you would love to stand up on my soapbox. We know that chiropractors are essential. You were essential for educating the public about health, but I want to talk today about how. How to do that more effectively.

So the first thing I want to identify is that science or the facts is very different than the fiction, the emotion, the story that gets built up about a topic, and so often we want to lead from that emotion and so I’m not saying don’t have these great personal ideas and opinions, and there are times and places to share that, but it’s interesting because you representing health. I’m not even going to say just chiropractic, because some of you are strong philosophical practitioners. Some of you work and do some functional medicine. Some of you have the understanding of a lot of functional neurology.

Whatever your experience and expertise, I want to honor that. But what happens is we forget that putting on that practitioner hat, or walking into the clinic, we’re actually just overall, all of us, no matter what style of practice you have, we’re representing health, and I really feel it’s important that we step into that natural right role for chiropractors in public health education. I’ve been saying this for a number of years, the last couple of years in particular. Again, the whole health system is broken as we know it, but the same thing. How do we step into that? Or how in our practices do we step into that?

So now, I’m not asking to not be emotional or have opinions, but what I want to talk about today is the Socratic method of asking questions. Socratic is a way to engage people more, to have them open, to listen, to have them be intrigued by what you’re going to talk about or what you’re going to say. So let me give you a simple example not related to even the COVID issue or the social unrest, the civil unrest right now. It would be even when someone asks me, “Who are you and what do you do?” I want to tend to create a way that they’re going to ask me more questions.

Instead of just saying, “I’m a chiropractor,” and leaving it at that, or, “Here’s what I do, and let me tell you everything I’ve ever known about chiropractic,” I’m going to tend to say things like, “I’m an amazing doctor that helps you live to your own potential. Do you work with anyone like that? Do you work with a chiropractor?” And I’m asking them questions so that I can engage and find out where they’re at, and then I know. Like, all of a sudden you can see that someone goes, “Oh. Like, what are you talking about?”

I’d like that we get them open before I start to try to plant some seeds in communication. Likewise, even for many of you who work with say pediatrics, with kids or with overall family health, it was always very difficult. I definitely wanted to share my ideas about a lot of topics, whether that’s vaccination or ear infections, or just a lot of things that we know the general overall increased health for kids under chiropractic care, but I had to sit and I’m, many of you know or the ones that I don’t know you can tell even from the way I communicate, I’m a pretty direct, dry personality. So it was really I would want to tell them. I would want to say, “Here’s what’s important for you with your kids.”

Versus the Socratic is if a patient was looking really tired and I said, “What’s going on? You’re looking tired today.” And if they said things like, “Oh, I was up all night with the kids with some tooth ache or ear infections, or colicky,” instead of just going into teaching mode I would say to them, “Are you interested to hear how we handle that at my house?”

Then I had to learn to let there be a pregnant pause, like that moment where they’re either going to engage or not. Because if they’re not, that’s also okay, and yet I have never found a parent that won’t engage with that kind of questioning. You know, “Are you interested in knowing more about that?”

So right now, things like even the science around face masks, and that’s obviously in many of our faces because of either you’re mandated or recommended or some of you need to have signs that are talking about people coming in with masks, but some of you even, you have to come up with the language of the way to have a conversation if you’re not wearing a mask and a patient is coming in with a mask, or with their fears. Remember the mask, this thing across someone’s face, is about fears. It’s either that following the rules, and/or particularly that they’re afraid, and so if someone asks me about masks I’m going to say, “What have you read about them? Why are you wearing a mask? Is it important to you? Does that help you feel safer?”

I want to hear where they’re at. I want to acknowledge and be interested in them. A lot of it with the idea of, are you teaching or are you educating? I want you to think about teaching as almost like a putting it out there. Like, here’s everything I’ve known, or here’s what I think about this. Whereas educate tends to engage them. Can you pull them in? Can you find out where they’re at? Can you be interested in their position? And then instead of making statements, could you learn to ask questions? If they’re asking, a lot of patients are even just asking.

There’s so much miscommunication out there. Let’s face it. We’ve got an article saying this and an article saying the complete opposite, and my hope is they’re asking you questions. And instead of though just starting right away to say, “You need to read this or do this,” find out again, “Have you been reading much about that? What have you learned about it?” And some say, “I really haven’t read anything.” Because then I can turn around and say, “Would you be interested in a couple of articles that I would recommend? Would you be interested in knowing a little bit more about that?” And remember, some people right now aren’t.

Now, many of us, even whether it’s with patients or I’m not in physical practice anymore. I just consult and coach and work with chiropractors in the profession, but even out on a trail a week ago, literally there’s a sign about having your mask, and my 22 year old son is with me and he’s got it in his pocket and I’ve got a little cuff on my shirt that I can pull up if I really am going to be close to someone, but there’s a bunch of mountain bikers coming down the trail not wearing masks and there’s a couple ahead of us that literally they step off and they start to, in a very upset tone, almost lecture after the first mountain biker and the other mountain bikers that are coming, and they’re looking at me because I’m ahead of my son and they’re looking at me and saying, “It’s terrible that so many of you are not wearing masks.”

And so in that kind of a situation, I’m never going to convince them of something. So my statement, more almost an intriguing statement is, “The great news is that your wearing a mask so that protects you. I honor your decision,” and I just kept walking. Because you can see in those cases, I am not in that kind of environment going to want to Socratically ask them questions or are they open to learning more, and that’s not the environment.

So some of you, it’s almost like how do you have your strategies for communication in the office versus even out of the office? And absolutely out of the office right now is where you’re educating and working with your kids. I’m the most proud right now of my chiropractic kids, and many of your kids that I know that are really going, “This has just been a virus, right?” You know, around COVID issues, or my kids have really strong perspectives and I’m very proud of that related to the civil unrest. I want to encourage that and I want to engage them and find out, are they reading more? What are they doing about these things? Versus even telling them.

Now that’s because my kids are old enough. Some with your younger kids, it’s going to be sharing some ideas and values related things, but I want you to see that it’s almost like we need to think through what role we’re playing. Are you a parent in this situation? Are you someone that you’re in a great conversation where someone is really asking you your opinion outside of the clinic? In the clinic, is it that you’re really trying to stay on that balanced perspective to really engage them?

And some of you are very fortunate. Like there’s some chiropractors I know that they have done this work so well over a number of years that they’re having some pretty intense and engaging conversations with patients right now about COVID and health and also about the social injustices right now, because they built that framework. The thing I just want some of you to think about that if you haven’t built that framework yet, how do you do that? How do you have these kinds of conversations? And particularly let’s talk about in the practice. I want you being that public health educator. I want you being that resource. I want you being willing to even do ads right now. There’s a lot of social media experts helping many of you. You know, what do you do? How do you open that back up?

I hate to say it, but right now is the least expensive it’s been to do a Facebook ad to do some level of promotion. That’s a good thing, but recognize what or how do you engage the community in wanting to learn more, in coming to you as that resource, not necessarily feeling that they will be judged if they have a different perspective? I just think part of public health education is that it’s so critical to find out where someone is at and therefore then how you can ask more questions.

So you can see today I just really wanted to talk or touch on what I think is really important right now, science or facts versus emotions or fiction, and the energy related to that emotion. And I have a lot of emotions about that, but I recognize way back at my most disciplined phase of practice I had a coach, an amazing coach who had me be so disciplined about no newspaper, no watching CNN, no watching all these news stations. Luck back then, for all of you that are young enough, I didn’t even have social media. There was no access to that, but some of it may be even asking yourself more powerful questions about, is this a credible source or am I going down a black hole with social media? Is that an article that’s even current, or is it something from the past? So even practicing the Socratic on yourself or on things that you’re looking at and reading, but I want you to think about this state management. How do we manage ourselves appropriately if we’re now going into the clinic?

You know, we’re emotional. The world is off its axis right now, and it’s throwing all of us and like I said, we’ve got ideas and opinions and pretty strong ones for many of us as chiropractors, but I want you to recognize that as you walk into your practice, how do you manage your state and go into the powerful public health educator role that you have? I want you to step into that. I want you to really succeed at that.

Now, today we don’t have a lot of time to go into a whole bunch of the strategies or resources but you noticed that I’ve talked about Socratic. I’d like you to my background as a coach, I want to leave you with tools and so one of the things is if you can practice taking a statement or something you want to teach and flip them to a question so that you could practice engaging people. It takes a little bit of work. It takes some practice, but I’m going to tell you that that is magical, because that allows you to step into this rightful essential role as a public health educator.

So I know I’ve just touched on this really powerful piece about communication right now, because I think it’s important and it behooves every one of us as a doctor to practice, to work on this, to embrace this role that we have the opportunity to step to right now. So I’m happy. Please don’t hesitate through the chat through ChiroSecure to reach out to ask questions, or you’re welcome to private message me with any questions about this or ways or places that you can practice or get a few more tools related to this, so I just want to thank ChiroSecure for, like I said, hosting the show, allowing me to be one of the periodic hosts, and really bring to you what I hope is very pertinent based on the state of the world, the social injustices that are happening, and the health injustices that are happening. I really hope we can help equip more of you to be that natural public health educator.

So thank you for joining today. Please stay tuned next Tuesday for the next host and the wonderful edition of Growth Without Risk. Thanks and have a wonderful day.