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How to use words to help your clients feel seen

drmichaela michaela bucchianeri health and wellness copywriting how to use words to help your clients feel seen



Back in the early 80s, one my favorite TV shows was Romper Room.

Though, honestly, the only part I remember now is the segment at the end, when the host would pull out her “magic mirror”, say the magic words…

“Romper bomper, stomper boo,
Tell me, tell me, tell me do.
Magic Mirror, tell me today:
Did all my friends have fun and play…?”

…and then she’d call out the names of viewers at home!

I can still feel the tingles of anticipation. Sitting on the floor, staring intently at the TV screen, willing her to say my name:

Say Michaela, please say Michaela…!  DAMN IT, WOMAN, SEE ME!!!

We talk a lot in the therapy world about this idea of being “seen” and why it’s so crucial to the work we do.

Here’s the gist:

To make a person feel “seen” is to communicate to them:

  • I care that you’re here
  • I hear what you’re telling me
  • And I’m invested in helping you feel your best


My personal opinion?

If you work with people in any capacity… this idea is crucial to the work you do, too.

So, how can we create conditions that help our clients and patients to feel this way?

Turns out, we’ve had a (not-so-)secret weapon right here at our disposal the whole time…

Read on for 3 ways to help your clients feel seen… by using your words:

1) Use their name(s) + pronouns

It sounds so obvious, but using their name and pronouns– accurately and consistently– is one of the most effective ways to help your clients feel seen.

It’s what kept 4 year old me glued to the TV screen every time that Magic Mirror appeared.

It’s what’s kept the manufacturers of those personalized souvenir mini license plates in business for all these years.

We love to see + hear our own names! It feels good.

So, how can we use this in our work?


IDEAS TO TRY:

  • Ask each client/patient’s preferred name/nickname and pronouns, and note pronunciation in their file
  • Greet clients/patients by name at every point of contact, both verbal (e.g., on a video call, in the waiting room) and written (e.g., using a customized |NAME| field in newsletters, reminders, and/or other email communications)
  • Note the names of key people, pets, projects, etc. as they share them
  • Use these names during sessions/visits/appointments (e.g., “How’d the conversation with Ellie go?” vs. “How’d the conversation with your wife go?”)

2) Use their terminology


I broke one of my own rules of copy the other day.

I used professional jargon in an intake session with a client.

Doesn’t matter what the term was. The client’s reaction said it all:

Blank stare.
A beat of silence.
Then, the eye squint of confusion.

Ugh. So cringey.

I’m usually better than that. {shakes head}

Look, we’ve got no shortage of professional terms in the health + wellness fields. And, used in the right way, they can provide value to our clients/patients.

For instance, to help a parent understand their child’s unique brand of anxiety, it can be useful to equip them with some key vocabulary.

But, by “jargon” I mean the terms that are really only useful in conversations between professionals. To our clients, these terms are worse than meaningless. They’re a waste of time.

If our goal is clear, authentic communication with the people we serve (and it should be!), then it’s vital that we adopt the habit of using their terminology whenever possible.


IDEAS TO TRY:

  • Pay attention to the words they use to describe their problem(s) (e.g., “the flicker in my chest” vs. “elevated heart rate”)
  • Take note of the words they use to describe their people (e.g., biological father = “the man I share DNA with”; stepfather = “my dad”)
  • Use clients’ terminology in all of your direct interactions with them
  • Incorporate dream clients’ terminology into your website + professional profile copy, descriptions + marketing of programs and services you offer, etc. to attract more dream clients

3) Use their feedback


Want to help your clients feel seen and improve your quality of care at the same time?

Listen to their feedback + start putting it to practical use in your business.

At the end of the day, we all want our ideas to be valued. Nothing says “I value your input” like putting that input into action.


IDEAS TO TRY:

  • At the beginning of your work together, ask clients what factors were most helpful and/or challenging in their previous experiences with health/wellness professionals.
  • Throughout your work together, ask clients how you can improve care for them.
  • Listen to clients’ suggestions re. how you can make some aspect of your work together easier for them, or more valuable to them.
  • Pay attention to clients’ hopes/wishes/challenges/struggles. What resources do they wish existed?

In my own practice, I keep a running file of client input, and regularly review it to see if there’s some way I can implement it in my work.

Sometimes, it’s unique to their case (e.g., an idea for a handout or other resource). Other times, it’s a theme that has implications for the content and/or process of my work with multiple clients (e.g., a tweak to the scheduling system, an office accessibility improvement).

Either way, I do my best to make it happen. And then– importantly– I thank them for their feedback + let them know I took action on it!



Let’s take action!


OK, here’s your action step for today:

Choose 1 of the suggestions above to implement this week, to help your clients feel seen. 

 

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