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The introvert’s guide to talking with your doctor

By Hayley McKinnon

It’s my nightmare to be confined to an exam room with an unfamiliar doctor who pokes and prods while asking questions about the intimate details of my body and lifestyle.

A woman is talking to her doctor

Although many people might recognize this as a routine check-up, I find it exhausting. Because I’m an introvert. I also need more time to listen, process and ask follow-up questions. This is especially true during a short appointment involving new and important information.

Sound familiar? If so, here are my favorite tricks for introverts to make your next doctor’s visit a little less stressful – and a lot more effective:

My 6 tricks to get more from your doctor’s visit

1. Prepare ahead of time: Any introvert will tell you that it’s easy to get tongue-tied when you’re unexpectedly put on the spot. You can avoid these awkward situations by planning ahead. One trick that works well is writing a list of any health-related questions before you get to the office. When you look at the list, are there any obvious follow-up questions you think you’ll want to ask? Write those down too. For example, if you suspect you’re experiencing high blood pressure, consider the questions you might have if your doctor confirms this during your exam. Dietary changes? Side effects of medication? Natural alternatives?

2. Use that list: All of that advanced planning will only benefit you if you use it! Take your list out at the beginning of your appointment and hold it in your hand instead of leaving it in your purse. This way, you and your doctor can prioritize your concerns and address them during your appointment.

3. Take your time: I always want additional time to absorb and process, rather than firing back with questions right on the spot. If you would like a moment to think things through, tell your doctor. And remember that it’s always okay to ask questions at any point during the conversation.

4. Remember your voice: If your doctor is doing most of the talking, try not to shut down or stop listening. Instead, take a deep breath and remember that your doctor has your best interest at heart. Resist any urge to recede into your normal internal reflection mode until after you leave the doctor’s office.

5. Reflect and follow-up: At the end of your visit, tell your doctor that you’re going to have follow up questions, and confirm the best way to communicate beyond the examination room. I often communicate more effectively through email or text, rather than face-to-face conversation. It’s especially important to be aware of this during conversations surrounding your health, as descriptions of your symptoms play a vital role in the diagnostic process.

6. Schedule the last appointment of the day: I discovered this will usually give you a few extra minutes of face time with your doctor, as she doesn’t have to race off to see another patient. Take advantage of this additional time to ask any questions that arise during your initial reflection.

We all of have our own way of listening, learning and connecting with people – even two introverts aren’t going to communicate exactly the same. As hard as it may seem, I suggest you talk to your doctor about what you need when it comes to communication. I bring this up during my yearly checkup or other times when there isn’t a major issue to discuss. That way you can both focus on the conversation – and those to come.

Last Updated: January 10, 2022
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