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Does Communication Style Impact Obesity Treatment Outcomes?

Athena Perez

November 8, 2023


So how we communicate does matter?

So, you know how we always chat about the importance of communication style in our seminars, especially when it comes to coaching? Well, I was absolutely thrilled to stumble upon this recent study from the University of Oxford, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It’s all about the way doctors chat with their patients who are dealing with obesity, and how this can make a big difference in obesity treatment outcomes.

The researchers put on their detective hats and analyzed 246 recordings of doctor-patient conversations. They discovered that the little things in communication, like the choice of words and the tone of voice, can really sway patient outcomes.

The study also revealed that patients can pick up on negative vibes from the tones or word choices used, which can put a damper on the doctor-patient relationship. The researchers used a method called ‘conversation analysis’ to figure out how the doctors’ words and tone of voice could impact care.

Consider your communication delivery

They noticed that doctors usually had three main ways of delivering the offer of help: they either presented it as “good news”, “bad news” or in a neutral way. Interestingly, only half of the people who were offered programs in a neutral way actually attended, but if it was offered as ‘good news’, a whopping 83% showed up!

The lead author, Dr Charlotte Albury, highlighted that when doctors put a positive spin on the conversation, emphasizing the benefits and opportunities of a healthier lifestyle as ‘good news’, patients were more likely to sign up for a program, attend more sessions, and even have more success.

We know words matter, and this research shows they really do – in the short and long term…

– Charlotte Albury

The researchers are now encouraging doctors and other medical professionals to adopt this ‘good news’ approach in their chats with patients living with obesity. By presenting help in a positive light and as an opportunity, they can significantly boost patients’ motivation to act. This can transform conversations into constructive dialogues, empowering patients to achieve healthier lifestyles.

You can read more about the study here!

It all boils down to how we deliver our messages. We can either focus on all the negatives of obesity (which rarely motivates anyone) or we can talk about all the amazing benefits they stand to gain by being the healthiest version of themselves.

So, what do you think you’d respond to better? Good news or bad news?

Journal reference:

Albury, C., et al. (2023). Relationship Between Clinician Language and the Success of Behavioral Weight Loss Interventions. Annals of Internal

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Once tipping the scales at nearly 500 lbs, I've flipped the script and whipped up a life-changing seminar to help fellow coaches and gym owners, on my own terms. I spill the "beans" on my rollercoaster ride to health, my expertise in working with larger bodies, and toss in a mix of resources, tips, and more. Buckle up!

Athena Perez

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