We hear so much about how communication and building rapport matters in professional spaces, but often it feels like they missed the memo with some of the medical appointments I attend.
“Hi Emma, fantastic to meet you. So we haven’t got long today, so I’ll whiz through this checklist” She says whilst pulling out a clipboard from her green backpack.
I nod and sit down in the empty plastic blue hard chair. I actually am not sure who she is or why I’ve travelled 40 minutes to see her today. I hope she’ll tell me.
“Sorry, just let me read your notes quickly” she says, skimming the documents in front of her.
“Sure” I say. Yikes, skim reading my entire medical history – I wish I could’ve zoomed through it!
Three minutes she has read enough to get onto the checklist. She glances at her wrist watch, poises her pen and says –
“So Emily, since the car accident what is it..”
Everything that follows this incorrect information I don’t hear. I block it out. I have no idea why she is here, who she is and delivering me this information is only making me withdraw more! Why expend energy and waste the 25 minutes of our time together disclosing my experiences, when she doesn’t even seem to know my name?
I cringe and shuffle in my chair saying, “Sorry my name’s Emma and I had a stroke when I was 24”
“Sorry, my bad Emma,” She says. She continues, “Ok so since your stroke…”
We finish the checklist and I leave.
I’m not sure what the next steps are, what she will do with that information. I just feel tired, misheard and confused.
I write in my book –
“…As a therapist I knew that a strong therapeutic foundation was crucial to elicit a person’s strengths, motivation and sustain their performance. But as a patient I suddenly felt myself very closed to those who robotically assessed me, assuming that I, the patient, would have nothing to contribute to the process. I needed to feel valued before I could reciprocate and build any rapport with them: (Reinventing Emma, p. 119)
This situation unfortunately has been fairly common in my journey. Understandably, in the fast paced environment of many provider’s worlds, there is a need for us to be efficient. However, does this efficiency mean that we can justify not being person-centred? We often focus on new resources, assessments or checklists and simply forget to think about how they are designed to enable the person. Personally, that therapist would get better responses for her checklist if she spent the initial part of the session building a relationship with me.
Perhaps, knowing her name, her role in my life and the purposes of the session would significantly help us develop rapport. I perhaps would feel more included, valued and able to trust that she really cared. It’s likely that my efforts and time disclosing the responses to her questions would be worthwhile.
Why not ask how I am and give me an opportunity to relay my feelings or a chance to correct any incorrect information? Perhaps she could say, “It says here that you had a car accident 17 years ago – is that right Emma?”
Glancing at your wrist watch may help your time management skills but are you inadvertently conveying to the person that you need to rush, prefer to be elsewhere or feeling bored? And if they take your aloof manner personally, you’re not going to be able to build the rapport with them that you need to successfully engage with them?
Value each person, their time and feelings. In every interaction with them, make them feel heard.
You are dealing with a person NOT just ticking a box!