By Freddie Ulan, DC, CCN

You have to train your reception staff to never say “How are you?” That is an absolute no-no for anyone to ask but the doctor.

People ask that socially, “Oh, how are you?” and the patient thinks because they’re in the doctor’s office they should start spilling their guts. Is the person asking them how they are actually making notes so they can let the doctor know? Nope. Does the doctor ever find out? Sometimes, usually after they leave.

The stupid social thing that occurs is, people think they’re supposed to say, “How are you?” Most people respond with “Thank you, how are you?” It’s very improper to say how you really are. Nobody expects you to and nobody wants you to. Except in your doctor’s office!

I have had to train my staff to never say “How are you?” Instead, I’ve trained them to find something about that person that they could admire truthfully. Like, “I really like the way your hair looks this morning”. Or find a nice broach or something about them that doesn’t put their attention on themself. Something that they can feel better about.

I know my wife is always looking for the perfect pair of glasses and when she sees someone who is wearing a good pair of glasses that looks good on their face she’ll immediately say, “Where did you get those glasses? My face is almost like yours that I could…”

What does that do for the person? It makes them feel good about coming in. “I really like this shade of green on you. That is a lovely shade.” It has to be totally honest, by the way. But get them out of the habit of saying “How are you?” And you need to get out of the habit of asking “How were you?” unless you’re ready to take notes.

To ask somebody how they are and then not to get them to answer the question is a failure of control. It trains them that they don’t need to really respond to what you’re saying or asking. A much better question is, “How are you doing?”

Use “How are you doing?” And be very specific. “How’re you doing on the program?  How are you doing with your left shoulder pain? How are you doing with your menstrual cycle, isn’t it about time?” That’s the right question. “How are you doing today? How are you doing with your energy problem? How are you doing with the pain in your chest? How are you doing with your headache?” That’s what you say.

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