7 Persuasion Techniques to Help Your Patients Help Themselves

Oh yes, we all wish we had the power to control other people’s minds and bend them to our will. Especially when it is for their own good (and of course, we know better).

Wouldn’t that make our lives and work so much easier?

But until we master the art of mind control we can use some proven psychological techniques to help our patients help themselves.

1) Know your audience

Understanding the person in front of you can decrease the amount of pressure you have to apply in an instant. Every person is different but if you treat a similar type of person (Male, Female, Young, Mature, Professional, Big Family, Small Family) you can see the patterns of what makes their lives better and makes them FEEL healthy or unhealthy.

Remember that your patient outcome is largely dependent on how they define and experience their own physical and mental health.

2) Social proof

Why it works: Social proof describes the tendency to make choices based on other people’s decisions, because we believe those decisions reflect the right choices.

Drug companies leverage the concept of social proof through case studies, research, and more specifically, other patients who have seen success with a particular treatment or medication.

How to use it: During the patient visit, give anonymous examples of patients that saw results. Be specific when you are explaining the results and how it helped them enjoy their life.

3) Get your foot in the door with a small request

Why it works: Many patients have trouble with following simple recommendations. like a consistent medication routine, or staying with physical therapy for pain reduction. Once a patient says “yes” to a small request — they’re more likely to agree to future requests. It works like a micro-commitment that will open them up to changing more challenging habits or behaviours.

How to use it: Ask the patient to make one small change before the follow-up visit and then report on the results. In the follow-up visit, you can see if they are ready to move on to bigger commitments.

4) Share some of yourself

Why it works: When you are relatable to your patients, it breaks down the barriers between you and them and they become less intimated.

How to use it: Make actual eye contact during the visit, and share a small story that helps them understand you are a person with a life outside of the office.

It can be easy to forget that there’s a person on the other end of your diagnosis.

5) Agitate the problem and solve

Why it works: Just because your patient is aware they have a problem in one area or another doesn’t mean they’re prepared to solve it.

But emotion is a powerful thing. Whether it’s subconscious attachment to the old way of doing things causing inertia, or fear of making the wrong decision, your patient won’t always warm to your recommendation immediately.

How to use it: To convince them, you’ll often have to talk about the problem in emotional terms, then swoop in with a solution to demonstrate how you can help.

6) Include a reason

Why it works: Giving people a reason why you need something — no matter how ridiculous — makes it far more likely they’ll do what you ask.


How to use it: Even providing a simple explanation — “I’d like to change your sugar intake you because It can help you have more energy throughout the day”

7) Remind the patient it’s their choice

Why it works: Nobody likes to be told what to do — especially when the person telling them to do something is a stranger. And even if you’re not being pushy or aggressive, many patients will still hesitate at the suggestion that you know what’s best for them.

A simple reassurance that you’re not attempting to push your preference is powerful. Across 42 psychology studies involving 22,000 subjects, it’s been demonstrated that using a phrase like “But the decision is yours” could double the chances that someone would say yes to a request.

How to use it: You don’t want to overuse this one — tempering every recommendation you make by reminding patient they have no obligation to listen to you isn’t a great idea. But when you’re asking for a larger commitment or are dealing with a non-compliant patient, dropping in a reminder that you’re not here to force them into anything can be a powerful technique.

How do you persuade your patients to be more compliant? Let us know in the comments below.

About The Author

James Riviezzo

Over the past decade, I have served over 50,000 (mostly) satisfied patients. I have tracked measured and documented what makes a successful practice inside (and outside) the third party payer and oversight system of medicine.