You Must be a Doctor...

The oddest thing has been happening to me over the last 10 years.

One out of every three times I visit a healthcare provider, someone at the doctor’s office or hospital asks me if I’m a medical doctor.

I’ve had emergency room physicians, triage nurses, physician assistants, and x-ray technicians all ask me the same question.

"Are you a doctor?"

Obviously, I don’t have a medical degree. I never took any pre-med classes in college. The extent of my training in biology is high school.

Yet, the questions keep coming.

When I’ve compared notes with my friends, they don’t get asked the same question.

This mystery has puzzled me for the last decade.

I finally decided to figure out what’s going on.

The most recent time this happened was when I was seeing a medical technician.

He asked if I was a doctor.

I said no.

Then I asked him, “Why do you ask?”

He said, “Oh, I don’t know... something about the way you carry yourself reminds me of other patients I’ve had that were physicians.”

After I thought about it some more, I realized what’s been going on this whole time.

It’s gravitas — a way of presenting oneself as to be taken seriously by others.

More specifically, I realize that when I see doctors, I’m in my professional “work” mode demeanor.

When I’m in this mode, I automatically speak “CEO.”

Obviously, CEO is not a “real" language like Spanish, Germany, Mandarin, or Hindi.

But, it is very much a way of communicating that conveys gravitas.

It gets you taken more seriously than you might otherwise deserve.

There are dozens of ways to develop and convey gravitas to others.

I’ll share one such way with you today.

Here’s the technique:

1) Structure the information you share with others.

2) Be precise in your choice of words.

When a doctor, physician, or nurse asks you, “So what’s going on? Or what brings you in today?”

Rather than just convey what has happened in a narrative format, do so in a more organized fashion.

Let me give you an example of both approaches.

A) Typical Narrative Approach:

"My daughter came home from school the other day not feeling well. She’s had a fever for a few days, and I’m getting worried.”

(This description is vague. Most doctors will ask for more details. "When you say 'the other day,' which day exactly? When you say 'fever,' how did you know it was a fever? Did you take a temperature measurement? If so, what was it?")

B) Structured / Precise Approach

“My daughter, who is eight years old, has had a persistent fever for the past seven days, ranging from 103 to 105 degrees F (39.4 to 40.6 degrees C).

"Her mental functioning during the day has been typical during this time.

"She has had a difficult time sleeping, and has complained about being too hot and too cold at night — but not during the day.

"To help her sleep at night, I’ve given her a standard single dose of children's ibuprofen before bedtime.

"She doesn’t take any medication during the day.

"No other medications are involved.

"She has had no other symptoms.

"No other members of the household are or have been sick.

"No other children in her class are or have been out of class due to illness.

"I am concerned, as the fever has not self-resolved during this time.”

When I’ve said a version of B above, the common response I get is: “Are you a doctor?”

When you compare the two communication approaches, you’ll notice that the first approach is more vague.

It can be interpreted in many different ways.

This requires the other person (in this case, a doctor or nurse) to ask many clarifying questions.

In the second approach, notice how ALL (or nearly all) relevant information the other person needs is presented in a single communication.

The information is conveyed proactively, without requiring the other person to ask follow-up questions (or at least not nearly as many).

Rather than using generalities, it references specific temperatures, symptoms, and times of day. It is more precise.

It also starts with the past and leads to the present.

This type of structure is known as “chronological order.”

Rather than jumping around from what happened today, then seven days ago, then three days ago, the communication is presented from oldest to most recent.

If you want to be taken more seriously by pretty much anybody, you can use these same techniques to improve your gravitas.

Instead of saying, “Sales are down 12%,” you would say, “Sales are down 12% this month versus last month. Sales are also down 15% this month versus the same month last year.”

Instead of saying, “We are running behind on the project deadline,” you would say:

“We are running behind by 14 days on the project deadline.

"We have three options.

"First, we can just take the delay, and complete everything promised at the level of quality promised.

"Second, we can skip the fifth deliverable on our original deliverables list and still make the deadline with our standard level of quality.

"Third, we can rush to achieve all five deliverables, but we will compromise on quality.

"I recommend taking the 14-day delay for three reasons:

  1. All stakeholders have indicated that a 14-day delay on a 6-month project does not cause them major problems.
  2. If we delay the fifth deliverable to a subsequent phase of the project, the workload increases by three times. This risks delaying subsequent phases of the project by 30+ days.
  3. All stakeholders have indicated that having a completed project with poor quality causes them many problems.

"Do you approve?”

In the first example, you’re forcing the other person to ask a lot of follow-up questions.

In the latter example, you’ve given the other person the relevant facts to make a quick, but well informed, decision.

In fact, a simple “yes” reply can end the entire two-minute conversation.

Having gravitas can make a huge difference in how others perceive you, and in the advancement of your career. If you're interested in more from me on how to develop your gravitas, just submit the form below to be notified of the upcoming release of my program on this topic.

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