Monday Morning Motivation | Vertical or Horizontal?

Posted by Bill Esteb on Dec 11th 2021

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Do your patient relationships tend to be horizontal or vertical?

It's a question explored in the book The Courage to Be Disliked, which is an introduction to the psychology of Alfred Adler.

According to Adler, virtually all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. With two types: vertical and horizontal. You'd want to be mindful of this as you contemplate how you show up with patients.

Vertical relationships places one in a superior position over another in an inferior position. It's tempting for the person in power to misuse or exploit it. (Especially when patients are accustomed to "doctor's orders.")

Horizontal relationships are based on cooperation. This mindset facilitates a healthy partnership. Granted, there's a rightful prestige that comes with your title of doctor. After all, you earned it. (Which is far more powerful when you don't brandish it.)

Vertical relationships flourish with understanding and compassion. Horizontal relationships with support and encouragement.


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Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at chiropractic gatherings since 1985. His 12 books explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient's point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. Since 1999 Monday Morning Motivation has been emailed to over 10,000 subscribers each week.