Dale Carnegie and His Mother Would Love This Doctor

Our little story begins with a recent patient visit to a doctor’s office. The story is true, but in the interest of patient privacy, we’ll avoid identifying particulars.

Among friends and family, the patient sometimes refers to herself as a “little old lady.” And at 90 years of age, the label fits in the kindest ways. She’s someone’s beloved mother. The physician is a physical medicine specialist.

The clinical details were entirely routine, but the patient experience outcome was—for the Little Old Lady and her family—remarkably positive. Especially for a patient who characteristically does not like doctor visits.

“He was interested in me,” she began. “He listened, he asked questions, and he was not in a hurry to get on his way. I really liked him.” Unspoken was the fact that this report was a polar opposite (and often repeated) summation of her primary care physician encounters. The length of the visit was no longer than the time with her PCP.

Admittedly, many patients are not so easily pleased…and this patient is anything but a tough customer. Nevertheless, the interpersonal lessons from this real life exchange are textbook stuff and straight from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).

Here’s how it breaks out:

“He was interested in me…” Carnegie’s Six Ways to Make People Like You include:

  • “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” [#3]
  • “Talk in terms of the other persons interests.” [#5]

“He listened…”

  • “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” [#4]
  • “Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.” [#6]

“He asked questions…” 

  • “Become genuinely interested in other people.” [#1]
  • “Smile.” [#2]

“I really liked him…” This brief but positive summation confirms Carnegie’s formula. The fact is nearly everyone wants to be liked. And in this example, the provider became “liked” by simply (and genuinely) taking an interest in the patient as a person.

Did Carnegie define “patient satisfaction” eight decades ago? Does it work every time? Clearly it’s not always this simple. But there’s little doubt that Dale Carnegie’s mother would like this doctors. And that Carnegie’s “Six Ways…”

  • Are not difficult or complex;
  • Are entirely free of cost;
  • Require no additional time; and, we suspect,
  • Are personally and professionally satisfying.

For related reading, see: Putting Patient Experience At The Heart of It All and Practical Tips and Techniques to Improve Patient Satisfaction.

Lonnie Hirsch


About Lonnie Hirsch

Co-Founder of Healthcare Success Strategies, Lonnie has consulted for over 2,000 health care clients during his 20-year career. Lonnie writes for many healthcare publications, and also has spoken at hundreds of venues nationally. His topics include patient experience, customer service, marketing, branding and business development.

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