Starting a conversation is about as easy and automatic as breathing, right?
Doctors talk with patients. Administrators talk with staff. Staff members interact with patients. Public Relations people talk with reporters. Physicians meet members of the community.
Effortless? Routine? The answer is no, it’s not always easy.
A meaningful conversation, a purposeful conversation, an engaging conversation—one that actually makes a connection—can be down-right challenging and it takes a bit of practice. And that’s true for introverts and public-facing, glad-handing, always-smiling PR personalities.
Starting a conversation that establishes rapport and grows into a connection is more of an acquired skill. The purpose (and the benefit) of a healthcare conversation can be to engender patient satisfaction, inspire doctor-patient communications, and create a positive patient relationship. And for all of us in healthcare marketing and communications, there’s no more essential communications tool than a conversation well done.
In what may be the all-time best “how-to” roundup of useful ideas on this subject, Trent Hamm recently wrote 20 Ways to Start a Conversation and Build Into a Connection—and he didn’t have healthcare in mind. His blog, The Simple Dollar: Financial Talk for the Rest of Us, is mainly about personal finance. But with this post, all of the “20 Ways” have a useful application in healthcare marketing, patent satisfaction and life in general.
As a quick sampler, here are four of the 20 to illustrate how this wisdom applies to everyday healthcare encounters.
- “ASK ABOUT THEM. ALWAYS. People always love to talk about themselves. It’s something they know about and something they’re often happy to discuss because it means, on some level, you’re interested in them.”
- “LISTEN. When someone is talking, don’t stand there trying to think of the next thing you’re going to say. That doesn’t build a relationship. Instead, listen to what they’re saying with as much care as you possibly can.”
- “TALK LESS. You should never fill empty space in a conversation with your words. [Rambling] is the surest way to bore and drive away another person. Instead, ask a question and encourage the other person to fill the conversation space.”
- “HAVE CONVERSATION GOALS. It’s always helpful to have some sort of objective in mind for the conversation, whether it’s just to build a better bond with this person, to get specific information, or something else. Know why you’re talking to this person and what you hope to achieve in the conversation.”
Meaningful conversations—even casual ones—have a purpose or goal. We communicate goodwill, convincingly present an idea, connect a solution to a problem, inspire patient satisfaction, grow a reputation, win new customers or, as Dale Carnegie put it about 75 years ago, “Win friends and influence people.”
It’s a skill set that’s completely natural for some people, but may require practice or training for others. You’ll find all 20 connection-building tips on Trent’s blog here. And if you or your staff could use a bit of first class training, connect with us here, and we’ll get the conversation (and a meaningful relationship) started right now.