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  • Dr. Lalit Chawla

E#1: Who is the Introverted Doctor?

Being an Introvert is more common than you think.


Why can a Doctor be an Introvert?

(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease).


What does it mean to be, an Introvert Doctor?

Now, since this is the first episode, of my new podcast, I'd like to share a little bit about myself by answering the most popular question I get asked. "How did I become an accomplished Illusionist, performing 2-hour stage shows only to switch gears and enter the world of Medicine to become a doctor?" Let me tell you it wasn't easy.

When I was in high school, I was basically a science geek; a nerd. And I was most certainly an introvert. The desire to go into the field of Medicine seemed to fit my interests and personality well. I was quite shy and I was afraid of public speaking or even talking in small groups. I couldn’t imagine being a doctor would challenge me in those areas, so… perfect! Now, around the age of 17, I tripped into the world of magic and to my surprise, I found that I loved it! Naturally, I started slowly; simple tricks for family and friends. But then, I stretched into performing small shows. Smaller shows lead to larger shows, which lead to Television appearances, which lead to other special performances. Now, many years later, I have been fortunate to be able to speak and perform in many parts of the world at prestigious medical conferences and universities. I have learned, and am certainly still learning, how to communicate more effectively; whether I am speaking in front of a large group, or connecting with a single person.


How does this relate to being a doctor, and what is an introverted doctor?

It may surprise people to know that a doctor can be an introvert. Perhaps most physicians are introverts, to a certain degree. There's so much learning and training that we physicians need to accomplish in order to earn the title and responsibility of “doctor”. There is a lot of cerebral “cooking” going on. From an academic point of view, it takes a certain level of inner quietness and focus to study at that level. Speaking for myself, I believe being an introvert actually helped me in my pursuit of a medical degree.


So being an introvert may be good when it comes to studying, but in a clinical setting where you have to talk with patients, your colleagues and staff, it's a whole different ball game. We need to have the ability to communicate outwardly (like an extrovert) to connect with patients, not only to find out what is ailing them, but also to share ways to make them healthier. But it's not always easy to do this. Most doctors figure it out. Some do it well, and others, well not so much; and subsequently things suffer.


I don't know about you, but I've “avoided” many conflicts, and even let people bully me around, simply because I didn't know how to deal with those tough situations. The worst situation I have been in, was when a doctor pinned me to the wall to "show me who's boss" and I was left speechless. Let me tell you, that was some crazy times!


So as introverts, and it is undoubtedly a continuum, we have to work harder to communicate with others. Some doctors do it well and some still some still struggle to figure out some solutions. It can be a struggle to run against our natural grain, even though it can be helpful in the short term, but at the end of the day, our batteries will need charging.

Learning to communicate effectively is not something you acquire in medical school or during clinical training. We learn as we go. Certainly, as an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Family Medicine, and by evaluating the approach at other Universities, we are always working on developing our medical training curriculum to include effective communication. We believe it is an essential aspect in creating a successful doctor-patient relationship; and equally important in determining a person's long term success.


I believe it was the Carnegie Foundation that looked at the three elements that determine a person's long-term success. They are:

1.Technical abilities

2.The ability to relate to themselves

3.The ability to relate to others


In Medicine, we spend so much time learning technical and clinical skills, but sometimes there isn't time to finesse the last two points. I know personally, being an introvert has had its blessings when it comes to obtaining knowledge. However, having spoken to so many of my colleagues, and people I've trained, we are agreed, that being introverted can make us miserable when we are sharing knowledge.


Helping patients is the goal of most doctors and is one of the core reasons why many people go into Medicine. These people are bright, because I believe, of their introverted nature and they have an honest desire to help people (people in health care are incredibly service and contribution oriented). But today, more than ever, it has become more challenging for physicians and other health care providers, as there are higher expectations to perform; tighter demands on our time; more treatment options to consider; and so many other directions to be pulled into. Not to mention the complexities of a patient's personality and circumstance that they bring into the clinical setting.


Any introverted doctor secretly struggles, to a certain degree, to be more extroverted and admires other doctors who seemingly do it so well. But whether they know it or not, there are definite strategies that are readily attainable and completely doable. I've learned some of these strategies over the years and part my goal in these podcasts is to shorten the learning curve and make it easier to be more efficient and effective when communicating. Because underneath all of this, we want to learn better ways to connect with patients while not getting burned out in the process. Knowing that this gap between professional success and personal failure exists causes us to weigh our endeavors with a bit more caution. Most of us function at a high level. We want what's best others and what’s best for ourselves as well, both inside and outside of the medical arena.


To be honest, I was really nervous to start this podcast and delayed producing it for quite a while. But I've spoken with many seasoned doctors over the years, secretly say they still struggle with being extroverted or connecting more effectively with patients. They've asked me for tips on “overcoming” their own introversion, because they knew I was a full-time Illusionist and performer, and now give many lectures on speaking and communication. So, I felt doing a podcast would be a good way to fulfill this need. Also, I want to help young medical learners and residents to become better with the way they relate to patients. I also want to help them understand the process with which to attain this better communication.

So I've had the good fortune to share "patient engagement tools” ; whether it's learning how to do magic in a clinical setting, body language, vocal techniques, how to use language, humor etcetera, in helping others be their best and do it more easily. So I thought these podcasts might be an excellent way to reach more people who want to excel and to create a healthier community, and also to become better personally at work, which will also affect their relationships in every other aspect of their life.


In these podcasts, it's my objective to discover and discuss, and to uncover tools and strategies to transfer these ideas. And to do it in a fun way as well. My aim, is that we get a little closer to becoming higher quality, and less stressed healthcare champions. As a result, we can feel more fulfilled at our work; having more joy and significantly less burnout. This higher quality mindset has a ripple effect at home and play.


So, each podcast is going to deal with some aspects of a doctor's professional life such as: communication techniques, mindset, routines, habits and behaviours. Now for some of you, these may be enlighteningly new and potentially fun concepts. For others, these may be a review of ideas that you already knew, but could apply them with greater quality and quantity. Plus it could also be used to help teach other young learners.


Also, I'd love feedback and comments and what specific topics or situations you'd like me to address, so please send them to me via www.theintroverteddoctor.com or www.magicandmedicine.ca


I'm also planning to have some amazing guests, who will share their perspectives, ideas and personal life stories. I'm personally looking forward to interviewing them and uncovering what makes them tick and what I can learn from them.


Here's a summary of this podcast.


Take Home points:

1. If you struggle with being more of an extrovert or relating with your patients, you're not alone

2. If you also have that challenge with colleagues or specific staff, I've been there, and there are real tangible ways to deal with those situations too.

3. There are systems, tools and simple techniques to improve our outward communications. It is easy to become more elegant and efficient as an introvert without changing who you are.

4. Three areas determine our success: our technical abilities, how we communicate/manage ourselves, and how well we can connect with others.


I hope you'll take this journey with me and enjoy these podcasts; and I hope that they may serve you and others, so that we can become better at our work, learn to connect better with patients, and do it easily and not feel so stressed about it.


If you've enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share with friends or colleagues and subscribe to us on apple podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. Please don't forget to leave a rating, I know it' seems like a small thing, but it makes a difference in terms of helping others find this podcast. I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you so much for listening. A little lesson or reminder is one of the best ways to serve and help. Let's together make a greater, more effective community and inspire people to be their best. So please pass it on.

Tell me what you liked what you would like to hear in future episodes. I'd love to hear your comments and feedback. Thank you and Have a Great Week!


Lalit Chawla

(A special thanks to the talented William Brown who edited the above transcript)

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