Speak Up! Step #3 out of my 5 step series

OK, so you’ve gotten through steps 1 and 2. You know your stuff, inside and out. If they quizzed you in the waiting room, you’d ace that test with flying colors! AND your stress is under control, thanks to the breathing exercises you now know. You’re cool. You’re confident (OK, so you’re still a nervous wreck with clammy hands, but at least you can sit still for 5 minutes at a time!) You are sooooo ready for this doctor’s visit.

So ready, in fact, that the doctor comes bulldozing in speaking a mile a minute and before you know it, you’re nodding even though you don’t know WHAT they’re saying and then they wisk you out the door. Walking out of the office, you suddenly realize you are incredibly confused…you have NO IDEA what just happened. You don’t know the plan. You don’t know what the next step is. It’s as though you blacked out during that 15 minutes! You want to break down and cry because you’re suddenly lost.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

I KNOW this is difficult. I KNOW how scary it can be to endure countless doctor’s visits and feel lost and overwhelmed. I KNOW.

You can do this!!

And you can do this by speaking up! Take charge of your doctor’s visit! Take control of your health and wellbeing! You don’t have to be a fly on the wall…you can be yourself and speak your mind! So stand up tall and use these tips to help you speak up while at the doctor’s office.

1. Slow down the convo

If you ever blank out on what the doctor is saying, IMMEDIATELY stop them. Saying something as simple as “Wait…can you say that again?” will stop the information flow and slow down the discussion. Don’t feel bad about interrupting them! Don’t be sheepish – you NEED to understand the information coming your way, and your healthcare team should WANT you to understand every bit of it!

Doctors are not perfect. They aren’t the best at reading body language (TRUST me on this one!) and they aren’t trained in the art of conversation. Many doctors and healthcare personnel are incredibly smart, but don’t explain things well. Some speak in the “verbal diarrhea” method, spewing out all kinds of information incredibly quickly. Others speak using medical “jargon” and they might as well speak in Chinese, YKWIM? They forget that the average Joe has no medical background, and it’s OK to remind them that you’re only human.

If you ask them to repeat themselves, it can break their (incredibly long winded) train of thought, allowing THEM to refocus what they are saying and allowing YOU to collect your thoughts. It also forces them to realize that they need to slow down and speak on your terms, without you saying that you don’t understand.

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2. Take notes

Taking notes may seem nerdy. But it works! If you take notes on what the doctor is saying, if forces them to slow down. It also forces you to concentrate on what they are saying rather than letting your mind wander to lingering fears or doubts.

I’m a visual person, so I like to take notes in a flowchart. If you know what you’ll be discussing with the doctor, you could even make the flowchart beforehand (based on your research in Step #1) and take notes within the chart. This allows you to follow along with what the doctor is saying and also helps you remember to…

3. Ask questions

THIS IS A BIG ONE! I’ll be going into more detail on asking questions in Step 4 of this 5 part series, but it’s worth mentioning often. Ask questions! It helps your understanding of the information presented and also helps you remember every little tidbit.

Write down the questions you have for the doctor BEFORE the appointment. This allows you to have a clear head and a clear understanding of what you WANT to ask. Also, take out that piece of paper BEFORE the doctor walks in! This way, you don’t forget to ask your questions! I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve forgotten my grocery list IN THE CAR, and then meander around the store hoping I remember what I need and cursing at myself. (Too many times! And I hate that!) Take out the question sheet before the doc gets there, and you’ll totally avoid my scatterbrain method.

An example of a flowchart with questions
An example of a flowchart with questions

4. Relate to them

I know this seems silly. I mean, who wants to be best buds with their doctor? You don’t have to ask them to dinner, for goodness sake. But try and relate to what they are telling you.

I’ll give you an example. My husband was in an office visit, getting the news that he has gout, and the podiatrist was explaining ways of avoiding a flair. One thing he mentioned was drinking more water and less alcohol. My husband, being a smarty pants, replied “So more ice in my tequila, then. Doctor’s orders!” They both had a good laugh, and I was completely embarrassed!

Once I got over my blushing moment, I realized this had done a few things. First, it broke the ice. This was my husband’s first time meeting this doctor, and I can assure you the doctor will remember him for next time. It also really built a relationship between the two immediately. Third, the doc knew that my husband understood what he was saying (although he might not follow his directions to a T) and allowed them both to acknowledge where the other stood.

Again, you don’t have to become best buds. But building a relationship helps both you and your doctor understand each other’s point of view, and thus improves your communication.

So are you ready to speak up at your next doctor’s visit? Have any other tips or tricks for improving communication with your healthcare team? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!

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