Research into the psychology of missed appointments (doctors, dentists etc) has discovered it really doesn’t pay to be negative when trying to change behaviour.
Traditionally notices in waiting rooms read something like:
Last month we had 39 missed appointments which cost the surgery over £800 and wasted valuable time which could have been used by others. Please let us know if you are unable to attend.
These notices had no discernible effect on getting people to do what they wanted. However, when they changed their notices to something like:
Last month 90% of patients kept their appointment with us. Thank you so much!
they found that the number of missed appointments fell by 30%! Positive messages reinforcing that keeping an appointment is just normal had a very positive effect!
They also used two other methods which worked. In a non patronising way they got patients to repeat back the date of their appointment, i.e. say it out loud, and also to write it down themselves. Again this meant significantly fewer people missed appointments; they changed their behaviour.
I am not surprised at all. We know that telling someone of our intentions helps reinforce them in our minds, and that writing something down helps us do it. Which is why on my courses I encourage women to share their goals and then to write them down.
A Positive Change Exercise
Try it for yourself.
1) Write down what you’d like to achieve in the next four weeks: be realistic about how much is feasible.
2) Share your aims with a friend, talk about how you’re going to do it and add in the details.
3) Pay serious attention to the messages you give yourself. Your ‘spam’. Are these of the ‘we lost masses of money because you couldn’t be bothered to keep your appointment’ variety, or are they the encouraging ‘ way hey, brilliant you! The surgery is working well because of your efforts and consideration for others’ ? Think about it. What Way hey message would positively reinforce your good intentions?
4) Imagine yourself, in your mind’s eye, having accomplished all you want to do. Just take a few moments each day to visualise yourself being hugely successful at making those positive changes. Feeling good? Hang on to that feeling!
If you’ve enjoyed this post you might also like Three Questions for Helpful Thinking. What’s your best tip for achieving your goals?
Posted on July 29th, 2011 by Jane