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Small Strokes Fell Great Oaks - Practice with Intention!

By Thomas Lecoq

Sometimes lessons come from unexpected places, and make you rethink what you have always done.

I ran across one of those pleasant surprises while researching violin, which I recently decided to take up. A video by violinist and violin maker Joe Kennedy is titled “Don’t Waste Your Time Practicing.” That’s not what my violin teacher said.

But it doesn’t mean don’t practice, it means use a more effective way of practicing. Take small chunks of achievable bits of information. With violin, for example. “If you’re having trouble doing slurs, practice slurs until you can do it right repeatedly,” so it goes into muscle memory. Then move on to the next bit.

That’s exactly what we try to get across regarding the core of our method, about nine sentences that have the power to move parents and patients to know that the problem is vision, and that you clearly have the solution. Once they know that “in their bones”, the next thing is to do something about it.

Our “Mastering the Art of VT Communications” course goes to great lengths to repeat the nine sentences that make up our RTEC. The sentences are easy to say and natural. In fact, they developed from my experience of making regular referrals to ODs anywhere and under any circumstance. And it works best when you avoid “selling” therapy.

Yet, not all clients have used this to full advantage, and Mr. Kennedy gets to the heart of why.

Effective vs conventional practicing

As in vision therapy, you do not do advanced activities until the basics are in place. So, the early stages of therapy are often about gross motor, the foundation of everything if you are developmentally oriented.

Have you noticed that often times you learn something exciting and new at a meeting or course? You decide to incorporate it in your practice, but before long, that great idea, method, or technique, fades away. Happens to the best of us, by the way. Question is, what’s the cure?

Our communications structure centers on the RTEC, a sequence of sentences, some questions, 45 second explanation/demonstration, then an invitation. It’s really very easy and works best when you listen far more than you talk. So why do some clients do better than others? And what lesson is in this for you, something you can use in building any part of your practice?

We Call It Rehearsal

Ever been in a play? You must memorize your lines, work out your blocking (movements), business (little actions in character). You don’t walk on stage and fake it. If you do, that’s the end of your acting career. Notice also that you don’t do it all at once. Very few of us can memorize all lines in a play in a day or two. Our local theater groups use scripts for the first 2 to 3 weeks of rehearsal, by then you must and probably will have learned your lines. At that point you begin to truly develop the character.

So, when you choose to work with Amee Lecoq on having the practice you always wanted, plan to rehearse until it’s no longer a chore, and rehearse bits and pieces of the RTEC until each sentence comes to mind automatically. At that point you’ll find the sequence is very natural.

That’s nice for you, but if you really want a lot of bang for your consulting buck, rehearse with your staff. Not just the key players, but with everyone. In fact, ask them to help you learn this ‘til it’s in your own bones. Surprise! Soon, everyone you rehearse with will also be great at the process.

Bit by Bit by Bit method

Take one of the nine sentences at a time. Try saying each in different ways. Some are questions, some are predictions, some are deeply empathetic and evoke emotions. One staff person we encountered decided that it was all manipulation and hard sell. But the RTEC is ineffective if you are trying to manipulate or sell something. People are not stupid, they can tell if you’re peddling something or trying to make them feel bad or guilty. So, rehearse until you get past the mechanics and are able to do the most important part of the RTEC, which is to listen.

Listen not only to what’s being said, but what’s behind it. VT OD Scott Pearl once said in jest, “If they cry, they buy.” Translated, if you are a safe place for parents and patients to explore the emotional cost of a visual processing impairment, they will probably want to do something about it. Through the RTEC process, they will also know that you have dealt with this a lot, and that you know what to do.

Many optometrists have been trained to show cool restraint, to seek the science behind what they do. I certainly understand why it’s difficult for them to stay with a parent/patient who is in tears because they didn’t know. But serious doctors know that the patient is the center of everything. And prospective patients couldn’t care less what 20/20 is or is not! All the explanation in the world will not sway someone who decides you are promoting snake oil. Emotional manipulation to close a sale is a sure sign something is fishy.

When a client truly understands this and rehearses as I suggest, they find their conversion rate goes up to 90 -95 percent, and the few who don’t enroll in therapy for financial or time considerations often come back later to enroll. Once they know their issues, their pain and suffering over how the vision problem manifests, they can’t un-know. They know in their bones that you also know how to resolve it. The reward for the optometrist is they get their time back. Far fewer “wasted” exams.

So, you might listen to what Joe Kennedy has to say about practicing effectively. If you’re like me, then I think you will also enjoy and learn from the second part of the video on learning to read music. We know that in reading we recognize word shapes, processing the shapes in periphery to know what to attend to next saccade. The same thing, it seems, applies to reading music. This could become a great activity for your young musicians.

I’m just a beginner on violin, so it’s time for me to go out and apply the method Mr. Kennedy espouses. Time to rehearse all the individual parts of playing well, so I can assemble them and play something recognizable. At 80, I’m still pushing the envelope. How about you?

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