I’ve been doing some reading about how language develops and is interpreted, and I wonder how we might apply it to This Thing of Ours. One article talked about how my beloved Philadelphia accent is dwindling, as Millennials will have none of it. (See Footnote)  I can’t imagine life without hearing someone say, “Go Fluffia Iggles” about 100 times a year. (I’m a Gi’nts fan, but I have lived in or near Philadelphia most of my life, so it’s like fingernails on the blackboard.) How do you warsh dishes in Fluffia? With “wudder in the zinc,” of course. 

A couple of generations ago, we had President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s very precise, measured, and formal speaking style. People of means and education tended to emulate him, and it could be pure torture to hear my parents’ and grandparents’ generation, in general conversation. 

At the other end, my favorite radio station is now asking us to “Score some tix for da Winn-uh Jawn.” 

FDR might look at this and say, “Well, if they spoke properly, you’d understand that they wanted you to attend their exciting yearly winter concert.” Yeah, I knew that, but when “jawn” first came into usage, I had to look it up in The New Urban Dictionary. Bet you did, or maybe you are, right now! Yes, I am trying to be “hip,” and not “hip-replacement.”

You can optimize your online searches. Get your practice’s education materials quite spiffy. Wellness-screen until they don’t feel well. It’s all lost if you don’t communicate face-to-face. 

In our high-tech world, patients still crave personal interaction, and I suggest that the quality of these interactions is one of the first things that people will remember. It starts with a clear, concise, and slow-enough manner of speech. Eye contact is key, as you’ll get the cues that tell if patients are on board with you, or if they are lost in the morass of “stuff” that we tend to tho’ down. I mean, lost in the waves of facts and options that we tend to present. Lose the interpersonal interaction after running nine exhaustive digital tests, and you’ve lost the patient.

The next time a patient admires your JCC technique or your painless tonometry will probably be firsts. How you put them at ease? Now there is the rub. Do you communicate like FDR in one of his Fireside Chats, or do you rap like Eminem? The answer is somewhere in between, but I’ll repeat an old notion that is said about how you dress and appear. If you rap like Eminem, there are some who will love it, and most who won’t. Go moderate, and you’ll appeal to most everyone.

Let’s suggest a way of resolving this personal communication issue. 

I’ve got one that works for me, and you can readily adapt. Ever see the end of a golf tournament on TV? No matter the intensity of the final round, there is a noticeable change in body language when the last putt is sunk. Win or lose, the caps come off, hands are extended, and appropriate pleasantries are exchanged. Relaxation and respect are the keywords. It continues into the post-match interview.

Here’s where my adaptation comes in. At the end of each visit, when all the putts are sunk, I (figuratively) remove my hat and shake hands. Instead of “great round, you really played well,” I give a brief summary in addition to the consultation that we’ve already reviewed in the exam room. “I’m glad it turned out to be nothing serious for you.  Please let me know if my suggestions don’t work out.” 

The post-consultation comments have the most positive spin that I can muster. 

Flagstick back in, see you next year! So, you aren’t into golf? How about the pleasantries that are exchanged with the conductor at the end of a classical music concert? Or, perhaps look at the parting comments by the head waiter at a top restaurant? Absorb the body language, expression, and tone of voice, and adapt accordingly.

None of it is rocket science. It simply adds up to extending kindness and treating patients the way we would all like to be treated.

Communicate well, enjoy the implicit interpersonal relationships you’ll build, and patients will make a visit to your office their own Winn-uh Jawn!