What do you expect at a health screening appointment?
To measure your blood pressure, pulse count, height and weight, blood drawn for lab results: It should be 15 minutes in and out. It’s a short, but valuable appointment if you can maximize your time. This health exam can teach us how to build trust, and thus a relationship, with someone we just met in 15 minutes.
1. Sharing a common experience
I have this usual expectation walking into my health appointment on Wednesday this week. I was greeted with a calm smile from the nurse. She then measured my blood pressure. I have comparably lower blood pressure than the average female at my age. But the readings showed a bit higher than my usual blood pressure. I asked if I could have it measured again, knowing that might not be her job. I was like a child waiting for mother’s approval.
She looked at me and said, “Sure. We will give it a try at the end of your appointment, and I will record both readings.”
At the end of the appointment, the nurse measured my blood pressure again. The readings were still high. She commented, “Look, it is within a healthy range. If you think it is higher than normal for you, it could be the sodium in your diet or stress among other factors.”
I disclosed to her that I might be experiencing more stress lately. A college girlfriend was killed in an automobile collision and I’ve struggled to find peace since then. With sympathy in her eyes, she said, “That is life, isn’t it? I lost four loved ones last year. Three to cancer and one in a motorcycle accident…”
“That’s a lot to go through in a year,” I responded.
She continued, “Live today like it is your last day!” I said, “You speak like Steve Jobs.” We laughed. “No regrets!”
In order to connect, both sides have to find something in common, like an experience or an interest or a value. My nurse and I had shared a common experience here. I told her I lost someone to an accident. I was being vulnerable, and she chose to step up and share her experience too. It is through sharing that we were connected right there at a deep level. I might not see her again, but I am sure I will always remember her. I expect that she will remember me as well.
2. Your curiosity about others helps you to be remembered
I am kind of an extrovert, which means I always want to talk with people when I have the opportunity. While waiting for my nurse to set up my blood draw, I started the conversation by asking, “What do you like most about what you do?”
She paused and looked at me for a few seconds as if she was thinking. She then took a deep breath and answered, “I have been a nurse for 18 years. I always wanted to help people. I want to create a great experience for patients when I am with them. People want to be treated like people, not as a transaction or a number. Some of my colleagues might choose to send people away if the appointment information does not show on their schedule. I will call first to verify and try to make it work for them. After all, they have made time to get an exam…”
I was a bit taken by surprise because I did not expect such a long and detailed answer. Curious and wanting to continue to engage, I followed up with, “You must love what you do.”
She answered, “Yes, I do. I was in other professions and I have come back to this one because I know I could make a difference. My mother was a head nurse in a hospital and my aunt works in a hospital out of state. I guess it is family DNA that we love to be in the medical field.”
Asking people “What do you like most about what you do?” is one of my favorite questions in a new relationship. It is not assumptive. I do not assume you like everything you do. But there is definitely something you like about what you do. When my nurse really took time and thought about the answer, the key is to listen fully, as if we are watching a movie, and flow with it. It is common for us to quickly share what we like most about what we do, turning the conversation back to ourselves, thinking this is my turn. However, when someone gives you a thoughtful response, you do not break the story, but encourage them to continue their story.
My response was “You must like what you do.” It was short and inviting. The secret to building trust is to make the other person feels like a million. How many patients ask the question, “What do you like most about what you do?” May be a few. As an extrovert, I usually want to start a conversation for my own benefit. How many patients, after listening to the first question, follow up with a comment to encourage her to say more? Close to zero. Did I separate myself from the sea of patients she sees? No doubt.
3. Be empathetic to others’ experiences
Now the nurse is ready to draw my blood. I am afraid of blood and have had some difficult previous experiences when my veins were nowhere to be found. Sometimes after multiple attempts to find a vein, I end up with bruises or have to come back for another attempt. As I looked at the needle, all I could think of was the inconvenience and my previous unpleasant experiences. I let the nurse know this just to prepare her, and even more so to prepare myself, “I have very small fine veins and they are hard to find.”
She said calmly, “Let me get a heating pad going for you.” She put a small heating pad on my left arm and helped me bend my elbow. “Now wait a minute and we will be ready.” A minute later, she checked my veins and said, “We are ready!” I nodded as I looked away, anxiously waiting for the noticeable pinch of the needle going into my vein. I felt a small mosquito bite and a barely noticeable pinch. And then we were done. Her skill was impeccable. The best blood draw experience in my life.
It’s evident that she is skillful in drawing blood. When I told her about my small veins and explained that it was hard to draw my blood, she could have said, “I have done many blood draws over 18 years and I know how to draw blood from small veins. Just trust me. You will be fine.”
She did not. Instead, she applied empathy and said, “Let me get a heating pad going for you to help with the visibility of your veins. Her unspoken message to me was “I heard you, and I feel your past experience. Here is something I could do to enhance your experience.” This really made me feel good.
This real-life experience at the doctor’s office shows the benefits of opening ourselves up in a more personal way, sharing our vulnerabilities, building trust and showing curiosity about others’ experiences. Although exposing our vulnerabilities can be uncomfortable at first, the good news is that most of the time networking doesn’t involve wearing a hospital gown while someone is taking your blood!
Actions for your next interaction with another person:
- Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do to create an unforgettable experience for him/her?”
- Ask: “What do you like most about what you do?” Focus on that person by listening with curiosity, as if you are watching a movie. Make a short comment to encourage more sharing. Then pause and wait for an answer.
- Show empathy and demonstrate you care.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Learn these skills and more to Turn Your Network Into Your Net Worth by booking Alice to speak at your next event! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.