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Acupuncture Today – September, 2005, Vol. 06, Issue 09

Picking Your Audience

By Sherry I. Shoemaker, LAc, Dipl. Ac.

When we are getting started in our practice, we want to tell everyone what we are doing and why they need us. We have been told by teachers, newspapers and other practitioners that Oriental medicine is coming to the forefront of health care, and that if we educate the public, our practices will be wildly successful.

Therefore, we are sure that if we talk to enough people, the light will come on and the patients will follow. All of the schooling and work will be well worth it ... so we talk to everyone who stands still.

As time goes by, we find out several things about people. We find out that not everyone has our point of view. Some people actually think that they should be in pain, or that their life should be miserable, because "that's the way things are." Logic and reasoning have no effect on them. We find out that there are people who actually make fun and scoff at what we are telling them. They say things like, "It's just a mind thing," or that acupuncture only works for a little while, or "Isn't it just like a massage?" We find out that people in general stop listening after the first 25 words, not minutes. People like to talk, not listen. Most people want you to know how much they know.

It can be discouraging. We wonder: Where are all the people who were supposed to hang on our every word? Where are the ones who take action by becoming our patients? Where are the people who'll refer us to all of their friends? When our practice is starting and things are slow, we wonder if we're doing the right thing. Do we speak the wrong language? Should we sound more "Western," more "mainstream," more knowledgeable and confident? What about our subject matter? Is it too vague or specific? Do we specialize and talk about only one thing?

This self-talk can drive us crazy. Our attitude starts to get in the way of our intent, which is to increase our practice and create goodwill with others while educating them about what we do - which is practice Oriental medicine. Here are a few pointers to help you.

Do not give away your power. If someone asks what you do, tell them in four words: I am an acupuncturist. Let them ask two or three questions, then say that you would be happy to make an appointment with them. Do not immediately go into your philosophy of medicine and health. If they don't ask questions, they don't want to know, and you'll waste your time and energy by giving them information they don't want (and will never use).

If you are talking to a group, stay on the subject. Define terms, but let the audience know that this subject takes years of training, and that it will not be thoroughly understood in 45 minutes. Nor should it be - there's just too much to it. Many times practitioners try to put everything in Western terms, which doesn't give the true foundation of Oriental medicine and can make us sound like MD "wannabes."

Always have a joke ready. That way, if a person doesn't ask any questions, you can still leave them laughing. Even if they don't remember what you said, they will remember what a great person you are. Statistically, it has been shown that most people choose a doctor because they like him or her.

Remember - you are the expert. When someone says, "My sister, aunt, etc., went to an acupuncturist and said ... ," you can respond, "That was then. This is now, and fortunately, in Oriental medicine, there is more than one way to approach a problem. Each person is treated as an individual, using the theories I am talking about."

Pick your audience. That means you have a choice. Don't waste your time talking to people, individually or in a group, who don't want to change or hear new information. If you are asked to speak to a group, someone there may be interested in the subject, but is the person there to challenge you, or to learn something? Ask some questions about the group and their expectations.

Remember to value yourself, your time and your medicine. You always have a choice of who you want to be around and where you want to be. What kind of people do you want to see in your office? Those are the ones that you approach to give your time.

It takes a long time to develop the knowledge of what you really want, who you really are, and where you are going. Do not be too hard on yourself, and remember that this is a process. Make some mistakes, have some fun, and remember that you can say no. Then, the right opportunity has a chance to open up.

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