If you are a medical professional, it can be challenging to know how best to help your non-medical friends. This is true of everyone in certain professions. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists have it the worst. They have the training to see where their friends might be taking a dangerous turn in life. When they try to help, they are often told to stop trying to psychoanalyze them. No one wants an unsolicited psych evaluation, especially from one of their friends or family members. Psychology students learn this lesson the hard way. No one wants to be the practice client.
As much as lawyers are hated, they have the best chance of having their unsolicited advice well received. Legal advice is expensive. If anything, friends and family will take advantage of those relationships to get free legal services. Everybody hates attorneys until they need one. At that point, they are willing to pay almost anything for the services. Stock analysts enjoy the same treatment: good and bad. No one respects the profession until they want a free stock tip.
Medical professionals are in a precarious position. They are usually well-respected members of society. But no one wants unsolicited medical advice because it comes across as preachy, especially from a friend or family member. Here are things you can do to make your medical expertise more accessible to the people you love without them having to make an appointment:
As a doctor, you earn every penny of the money you make. No one denies this. Society would die off in a couple of generations without medical professionals. We need you and we all know it. You don’t need to be overbearing. Your parents put you through medical school. They didn’t do it so that you can lecture them about smoking.
They sacrificed a lot to keep you focused and get you the highest MCAT score possible. They paid for the right study programs and made sure you were able to take advantage of them. They are proud of you, as are all of your friends who did not do so well.
Don’t ruin that good will by giving off an impression of smugness and superiority. It doesn’t matter that you don’t actually feel that way. The moment someone thinks you are less than humble about your good fortune, they will tune you out even if you have information that could save their lives.
Use Your Knowledge to Make Product Recommendations
Not everyone wants free medical advice from people they know. But they probably would appreciate good product recommendations about the things they care about. If they happen to be shopping for a new mattress, help them discover ways to find a nontoxic mattress. Someone with latex intolerance might have a difficult time finding a modern mattress without it.
Sometimes, it is about knowing what products will adversely affect allergies. As a medical professional, you know a lot more chemistry than the people in your social circle. You can help with that. It could be a matter of recommending the right exercise equipment or even the best toothbrush. If your parents have health issues, your best move might be to recommend a colleague that you trust. The power of recommendation should not be underestimated whether for products or services. People will more readily accept product and services recommendations over advice about their health.
Allow People to Make Their Own Mistakes
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a friend is allow them to make their own mistakes. Everyone makes poor choices, including you. Learn which battles are worth fighting and which aren’t. You wouldn’t be much of a friend if you didn’t try to intervene when a loved one is making a critical error. But you have to respect the autonomy and agency of that person to back off when they have made it clear they are not interested in your opinion. Parents of minors have the responsibility of overriding the poor choices of their children. You don’t have that duty with regard to other adults in your life, unless there is some unique legal situation that gives you that responsibility. You have to trust that they can learn from their mistakes the same as you learned from yours.
Lead by Example
It is shocking to see your doctor smoking on her down time. Upwards of 5% of physicians smoke. For nurses, the number jumps to 15%. Doctors exercise a little more than the average worker. And their eating habits are marginally better. Nurses are better at doctors in some things and worse in others. The takeaway from this 2012 Gallup poll is that medical professionals still have a long way to go when it comes to setting a proper example for their patients. If doctors do not practice what they preach, their advice is not going to be taken as seriously as it should be taken.
If anything, doctors have a greater responsibility to set a proper example. Often, they are not merely asking patients to incorporate a small inconvenience. They are requiring patients to make enormous life changes such as cutting out all sugar from their diet. If the patient doesn’t believe what the doctor is saying, the consequences could be at the level of life and death.
If the doctor is modeling something that doesn’t match what they are saying, the patient will not take it to heart. Go to the hospital cafeteria and see what the doctors and nurses are really eating. It looks pretty much like what everyone else is eating. In your personal life as a medical professional, the best thing you can do for your friends and family is to model what you advise. To do anything else means that your friends and family will start tuning you out. That is the opposite effect you want to have.
As a medical professional, friends and family will not always honor your expertise. Sometimes, the best way to get through to them is to be humble, provide helpful product and service recommendations, know when to let them make their own mistakes, and be a role model for the advice you want to give.