Chapter Four

Personality and Disclosures

bear-paw.jpg
Can a bear get a little privacy?

 Don’t pull a Paris Hilton

Everyone knows Paris Hilton, the famous socialite and heir to the Hilton Hotel empire. She is an attractive, tall blonde lady, who pretty much has everything going for her.

However her fame and notoriety came from the release of sex tapes onto the internet by an ex-boyfriend. On the plus side, it has made her a kind of celebrity, which she seems to relish. On the other hand, it has given her a certain type of reputation.

As a complementary therapist, you would do well to avoid having any of your own sex tapes released onto the internet. It will likely harm your reputation and you might find yourself only able to attract a certain type of customer.

If you do want to create a connection with your readers. There are other less-extreme ways to do this as well as things to avoid.

Personality

One way to attract readers is by injecting your personality into your blog. If you write like Data in Star Trek or Mr Spock, a blog will encourage you to lighten up and show some life. Readers are attracted to bloggers who show some depth, warmth and personality in their writing. Positivity is also important.

There is a lot of pain and suffering in the outside world and people have all sorts of problems. People are searching online for two things. Either they are looking for relief and an answer to their suffering. Or they are looking for like-minded sufferers and websites so they can share their suffering together with other people. There is some satisfaction in talking about how bad things are with other like-minded people (even strangers on the internet).

As a complementary  therapist, you will want to focus on the first point. You want to project warmth, empathy and a peaceful place for the weary to come. In terms of providing value, your blog and website should offer possible solutions to people’s problems along with  other forms of value, support and encouragement.

Fundamentally, positivity and personality is a too oft’ unused trait in many complementary therapy blogs. A lot of blogs I have read, focus on treatment history or some practical advice, but it can be a little sterile at times. It is not enough to make people come back for more.

Show your personality, your humour, your opinions, even share silly little experiences or trips on holiday if necessary as filler articles. It will help the reader connect with you.

Disclosures

Whilst you don’t have to go as far as Paris Hilton in the earlier example, sharing a little bit of yourself can help to build a connection. The question is how much do you share. This is something for you to decide on.

Some people will disclose facts or personal stories about their own life. For example one very popular blogger shared on his blog the reasons for his divorce with his wife as well as other personal details. Some bloggers openly share personal history. On the other hand, some bloggers don’t.

As a complementary therapist, you have to put your business first. You have to think about boundary issues as well as whether disclosures may harm your business or even cause intrusion into your personal life. For those examples above, making disclosures about family problems probably helped them, but for a healthcare worker, it may be inadvisable as it breaks your professional boundaries.

To give a personal example, I may share stories of personal experiences with a specific illness if I feel it relates to my treatment approach or practice. That kind of disclosure may help a patient relate more closer to me and seek me out for support.

For example, on one occasion I saw a patient who suffered from the same disease that I did. On our second session, I mentioned that I also had suffered the same problem and she was really interested in hearing about my experiences and the natural approach I took. I believe it probably helped her to hear someone else’s perspective and experience with the disease

I have treated a lot of people with cancer as I worked for a few years in a hospice. If I was to discuss my personal experience of treating people with a particular illness like cancer, I would have to be very careful not to share any identifying facts about that person. Or I may alter some details for anonymity.

Diseases like cancer are becoming so common these days and standard medical treatments is not enough to support sufferers. So hearing about a complementary therapy perspective can be useful to patients and their families affected by this illness.

On the other hand, if I was going through a divorce, I would almost certainly not talk about that as it has no relevance and I think it breaches my own professional boundaries. It could cause unforeseen problems later on. The same applies to releasing sex tapes.

The Reality TV World

We live in a different age these days where sharing stories and opening up is part of the online world. You do not need to share personal things about yourself and you certainly must be very careful about sharing stories about clients.

For example, It may be very tempting to say that you treated a certain celebrity. It can give a practitioner instant credibility and fame. However that kind of disclosure will damage your business in the long term. Clients will feel that they cannot trust you to keep a secret and avoid you. If a celebrity client talks about you publicly, for example on twitter, that’s a different matter. But then again, you still have to be careful.

I know of one therapist who worked with a celebrity client. That client invited her to appear on a TV show with her. After that appearance, she was approached by TV companies to appear for small interviews or segments.

Some people would have jumped at this chance, but she refused as she did not want to take her career in this direction. She also did not want to draw on her association with her celebrity client to make her famous. Just because the opportunity is there, doesn’t mean you have to take it. You must do what feels comfortable for you.

As regards making disclosures about your own life, this has to be something for you to decide. If you don’t feel comfortable about it, then don’t ever feel obliged to do so. We all have some things we are not comfortable sharing. I do feel that people seem to disclose too much in the online world. A suppose it is a kind of catharsis, and perhaps in that person’s life, there isn’t someone they can open up to.

In my case, I have always been reluctant to share the reason I first went into acupuncture; I suffered from an inflammatory bowel condition in my early twenties which was not resolved with conventional Western medicine. For many years I have always kept this private. However, I felt that this lack of disclosing came from a position of the fear of being judged.

For example, years ago I went for a job interview, where the interviewee team was a group of three people. In the middle, was the company President, a lean, old, grizzly-grey looking man, in his late 60’s. who had a facial expression like he’d spent his whole life sucking on grapefruit and that it had made him morbidly constipated. On either side of him, were two young employees who still had a youthful idealistic look in their face, which I could sense was overshadowed by their boss’s grapefruit-face sucking energy.

At one point, I was asked why I studied my particular degree in Acupuncture and I honestly told the three interviewers that I’d had health problems, which pushed me into this path. As soon as I said this the grapefruit-sucking President’s face grimaced even more than it had been already, and I could see clearly that he didn’t like the idea of accepting someone who had been sick into his organisation.

I suppose getting sick is a sign of weakness for some people. I didn’t get the job then, and I decided not to be too open about it in future. However, now I feel I have to change this, as I feel I am not being honest to myself and so for this reason, I decided to open up about it more in some of my writings, especially my blog.

On the other hand, there are things I won’t disclose. I won’t talk about my family in any deep detail and I won’t post pictures of my family. Other people will though, especially through Facebook. Again it is your choice and what you are happy with.

The advantage of disclosure is that it does seem to resonate more with readers. If you talk openly about yourself, it sometimes invites other people to open up to you.

It may also help your business in some ways. For example, if your unique selling point is in treating conditions like endometriosis and you used to suffer from it for years, than that would be a helpful thing to disclose as a patient will feel you understand the condition better.

In some cases, it may also be ok to disclose a past situation where a family member had cancer, particularly if you are talking about strategies to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.

Where you might want to draw the line, is writing about a messy divorce you’re going through or that time you came home to find your husband sleeping with the au pair. No need to wash your dirty linen in public. And again, no sex tapes.

Self-censorship

There are some areas where you should tread carefully. The challenge with a blog is that it is a platform where your business side meets halfway with your personal side.

For some, there may be a temptation to express their political or personal beliefs, which may potentially upset your readers. It may even upset your current clients. This is where you must remind yourself of the original purpose of your blog.

For example, you may feel very strongly about the Trump presidency either being pro or anti Trump. You may have strong opinions on the refugee crisis in Europe or against certain religious and ethnic groups. You may be for or against abortion. You may be anti-Christian or anti-gay. And you may be a member of the Nazi party.

These may be your strong personal opinions and you can be sure if you express them, you will upset some people and attract others.

If you prioritise your freedom to express these opinions over your desire to carry out your work to help people, then your business will suffer and rightly so. You do of course have a right to your opinions and who you see.

One other factor to consider is that Google is in the process of eradicating websites off the internet that it feels contain offensive material – especially what it perceives to be of a racist nature. Who knows to what extent this will go in the future? And this trend is likely to continue.

My point is that you should primary stay focused on the business of running a complementary therapy business and your personal message. And keep politics out of it. Keep your opinions to your dinner table. Or just blog or comment about it anonymously on other sites and keep it separate from your business and identity.

Witches versus the Warlocks

There will be one area of conflict that may be an issue for you – the idea of natural and alternative medicine versus the conventional pharmaceutical-based model of health.

In some therapies, there is no meeting place or you may feel very strongly against it. You may be vehemently against chemotherapy or generally all pharmaceuticals.

I have met and heard about a couple of senior acupuncture teachers in Japan who were completely against all Western drugs, even advising patients to avoid them including drugs such as chemotherapy and vaccinations.

In the UK, it is becoming harder to hold this stance. In some cases, it may be inadvisable, particularly if you work (or want to work) in a NHS setting or for a healthcare charity. In these environments,  you may be working alongside other conventional medical professionals and will have to learn to communicate in an un-antagonistic way. It is your decision whether you include these views in your blog. There are some bloggers who do, whereas others like myself, choose a middle ground.

Bullet Points

 To recap:

  • Insert your personality into your writing so readers can better engage with you.
  • Disclosing stories about yourself can make your audience relate to you better.
  • On the other hand, don’t over-expose. This is not the Jeremy Kyle show.
  • If you disclose, consider your boundaries. How much are you prepared to share?
  • Keep politics out of it and avoid contentious issues.
  • And no sex tapes.

 

Click here for next post – Chapter Five

 


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