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What I've learnt from Communication as an Expat

So as a family we've been living an expat life for the past little while, which has provided me the opportunity to reflect how this may impact on my future chiropractic practice on return to Australia. One of my greatest lessons and learnings has been around communication, and how we successfully interact with the people that cross our paths!

As those of you have met me IRL, you will know that the gift of the gab is something that I have always had. From the uni days when I'm sure I hold the record for "Ali, can you please stop talking and listen?!", to my early days in practice where I could run significantly late as I was chatting to practice members, the ability to 'reign' it in to essential elements has always been a learning process.

There are many ways that Chiro experts can help us with communicating with our practice members, and I don't feel that this is the best forum to cover this. What I do feel is that learning to communicate with people of various different backgrounds and primary language sources has definitely allowed me an insight that I may have missed if we had stayed in Australia.

1. Listen

What you think you are hearing may actually be different to what they are trying to say or what they want to be heard. Make sure you aren't assuming what you think they are saying, but more importantly you are actually paying attention and listening. This is important on every interaction, but possibly more so on that initial visit with you. Put down your pen/keyboard/tablet and really take in the information.

2. What is normal to you maybe jargon to them.

As an expat, and I think particularly an Aussie one, there are factors here at play. One is that we take for granted that our slang will be understood throughout the world. The same could be stated for our commonly used words within our profession. Even things as basic to us as subluxation, nerve, impairment, potential etc could be difficult to understand for some, and particularly difficult to understand in the context that we think it relates. Be prepared to break it down to a level that is easy to understand. Pare back your ideas to something basic and then build on these.

Have you ever thought about the word 'thong'. In Australia, we are lucky to use this word to describe our foot wear, or 'flip-flops' for some of the readers. Whereas in the US and I believe in the UK also, it is underwear. Not a great mistake to make when you are out to dinner with your new friends and discussing the perils of Korean footpaths (or sidewalks), and how your 'thong's' don't really handle it well. LOL.

3. How fast are you talking

I know when I graduated I had so much important information that I wanted to share and I just couldn't always get it all out quick enough. This often led to misunderstanding or what I meant and what the patient heard, and required a further discussion around elements of this conversation. Making sure that you slow it down a bit, and more importantly, check in that the practice member is not just hearing the words, but has an element of understanding is a really easy yet important communication tip.

As an Aussie overseas, I have been blessed to become friends with people the world over, and many of them comment on how quickly Australians can talk. There are certain members in our community that will need you to slow down the rate of speech so they can listen and understand as best as they can, make sure you recognise this well.

So in short.... sometimes as an expat I have felt like I am a 4 year old trying to get my ideas across to a pony. There's a brick wall of understanding, and there seems to be no way around it. Thankfully there is an app called Google Translate which really can help, but perhaps might not be the most appropriate way to communicate in practice. But in all seriousness, take the time to listen and communicate in a way that works for both of you. If you are having constant roadblocks of understanding coming up for you in practice, well take a look at the common denominator. There are coaches out there that can guide you, and I'm hoping that each of you reading this has a mentor you can bounce ideas off.

Have an awesome week, I look forward to communicating with you all soon!



I would love to connect with you, please email me below so I can answer any of your questions. You can also follow Innate Child on our Facebook feed.

Skype: draliscott


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