I had a doctor ask me the other day, “Russ, how can I be Socratic and ask questions and STILL be the AUTHORITY?”
I think we’ve all heard this before: “You need to be the authority with your patients and you need to TELL them what to do.”
Yet many of us have found that by just “telling our patients” we don’t get the results that we would hope for. And of course why would we? The fact is most people do NOT like to be told what to do.
There is an old adage in marketing which states, “No one likes to sold, but everyone likes to buy.”
In my experience, people DO want you to be the “Authority.”
They want you to be the expert.
If they ask you a specific question such as, “How much vitamin C should I take?” Or “How much care would you recommend?” They do want to be given a straightforward answer and in essence they want to be told. You are the expert or authority and they are asking for advice and direction. Give it to them!
But know that asking Socratic questions in no way ever undermines you being an authority. In fact it actually strengthens the case that you are a true authority.
Think about this: you go to a car dealership and speak to the salesperson and the first salesperson tells you that they know just the right car for you. They go into the features and benefits and tell you that this is the car for you. How does that feel to you? Annoying, right?! What a sleazy salesperson!
The second salesperson asks clarifying questions so that they can get a better understanding of who you are and specifically what you’re looking for and after careful thought and deliberation they come up with a few options for you.
Which one would work better for you? Of course the second one!
We need to do the same thing for our patients. Recognize that by asking Socratic questions we do two very important things.
First by asking questions our intent is to help clarify what our patients REALLY want, in relationship to what we can REALLY do for them, so we can get a better understanding of what is REALLY best for them, so we then can show them to have what they REALLY want. So by nature Socratic questions are clarifying questions.
The second crucial value to asking Socratic questions is it keeps your patient engaged, causes them to come up with the solution to their problem, and drives that solution into their limbic system thereby becoming a new belief system for them. Know that we always have a better chance of following recommendations if it is THEIR idea or solution vs. ours!
Here is an example.
When showing somebody their x-rays, you could tell them that:
Done this way, do you have any way of knowing if they really understood or believed what you have said?
There is a very good possibility that they were in overwhelm or drifting off or possibly did not believe something you said.
On the other hand, if you:
Phase I looks like this and you can see that takes approximately this long to occur, phase 2 looks like this and takes approximately this long to occur and this long to get as much change as possible and phase 3 looks like this and takes about this long to occur.
And then you ASK them,
“What do you see on your x-rays? What do you see with your alignment? What do you see as far as this disk space goes? Do you see any lipping and spurring? What phase do you think you’re in? And how long do you think it takes to get to that level of degeneration? And how many years do you think it takes to get as much correction as possible?”
When they answer those questions, I now understand that yes, they have heard and comprehend what I am saying. Unless I see a quizzical look on their face or something that tells me they “don’t buy it”, then I know that they do believe what they’ve just said. This means we have taken this new piece of information and moved it past the reptilian brain into the neo cortex where thinking and reasoning occur. From there it is moved over to the limbic system which now becomes their new belief system.
So realize that by asking Socratic questions you will get better results because you will clarify what they truly want, keep them engaged and drive these new concepts deep into their limbic system which becomes new belief systems for them. And it in no way hurts or questions your authority on the contrary it strengthens it.
As always we would love to know your thoughts.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.