When it comes to small talk with patients, you always want to ensure they are the center of attention. That is the whole point of the appointment! The appointment is NOT, so you can rant about how great your kids are or what you are doing this weekend. The appointment is all about patient healing, and as we all know, recovery is physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. When a patient comes in for care, they might be thinking it is all physical, “just” popping a few bones in place to feel better. But the small-time together is much more than that. If performed correctly, a patient doesn’t even realize they are being healed more than physically. When the patient is doing most of the talking during the visit, they heal via effective communication. This approach may sound odd and off the wall, but we all know that our mental state significantly impacts our physical health. For example, someone who is overly stressed gets sick more often and typically has high blood pressure. In this case, the patient’s mental stress causes physical issues, which lead to high blood pressure, among other things.
My Top Conversation Topic Choices
1. Have open-ended conversations
What I have found to be the best conversation for the patient and interesting for myself is finding a topic that the patient is knowledgeable about and building on. I have learned so much from my patients by picking their brains about issues that they are well versed. They love to share their knowledge, and I learn and expand my knowledge base simultaneously.
2. Do not talk about yourself and your family.
Unless the patient directly asks. Then you can talk about your family. Keep your answers short, and to the point, so you can move the conversation back to the patient’s family.
3. Talking about the weather is always a safe conversation starter.
I live in rural Iowa, where the economy surrounds agriculture and, in turn, the weather. Weather is always a sure bet talking point. However, after the 20th time talking about the weather, you are getting pretty sick of talking about the 20% chance of rain in the next 24 hours.
4. If you want to detour the weather, you can always talk about farming if you are in an agricultural community.
I do not farm much, only a few acres of alfalfa. I usually play dumb and let the farmers talk about their operation. It is excellent to do this because I learn more, and once again, we allow the patient to talk about a topic they enjoy.
5. Talking about family is always a great topic.
You get to learn about your patient’s siblings, children, spouse, parents. You can fill an entire appointment just by letting your patient talk about their family.
6. Weekend plans and vacations!
If you don’t want to talk about the weather, you can always ask if the patient has any fun weekend plans or vacations. I enjoy this topic because it offers new ideas for me to try for different vacations or weekend trips myself!
I would stay away from this topic 99% of the time. The only time I would recommend diving into politics is if you are 100% sure where the patient stands on issues, and you AGREE with them. DO NOT argue with your patients. If they have differing opinions, keep the discussion short and switch to asking about their family!
The other thing to be aware of is your patients in the waiting room. Make sure they can not overhear your conversation about politics because the next patient may disagree with your opinions.
I hope this helps as a short blog on different topics to discuss with your patients. If you stick to these topics, you will have no issues learning a great deal and healing your patients simultaneously.