The Healthy Communication Workshop, Day 2, @

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 30, 2011

Today is day two in my healthy communication workshop at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.  The workshop  is one of the most challenging things I do each year – in part because of  my ambition to put everything of value into the class that I possibly can, and in part because it requires me to be on my feet going for it for 2 days back to back, 8 hours each day.   This intensive is also one of the most rewarding things I do each year, because I relish the chance to teach these future doctors as they begin their academic career at the school.

The class is 16 hours of contact time, divided into five parts, organized roughly as follows.

Part One:  Narratives, Agreements, Observational Skill

Part Two:  Listening To Go Deep, 9 Gates, Motivation

Part Three:  Persuasive Communication

Part Four:  Changing Habits in Yourself and Others

Part Five:  Principles of Teamwork

I’ve made some great friends by teaching this class.  Already, many of my students  have graduated and become doctors in their own right, doing great things in service to a good many people.  Some of these friendships will continue for many years. Some of my new students will become friends, too, as they stay in touch with me, share their experiences with me, include me in their life events (weddings, babies) and allow me the pleasure of witnessing their development from student to doctor, from new doctor to established doctor.  I’m awed by them and grateful to know them, and excited about their future.  I’ve even been invited to be graduation speaker by some of my classes.

Because of the way I’ve structured the class, and because some students struggle with having someone else in control of their grade, there have been, on rare occasion, some potentially difficult moments – including threats, misplaced rebellion, misunderstandings and projection.  I could make this whole thing easier on me, by making it easier on them. But I won’t.  I seek to give my best, and in part that means challenging them to give their best, even when its uncomfortable for all of us.

When the going gets tough, I get it.  The students are, after all, only human and they are embarking on an often difficult path – becoming physicians in a small and determined profession.  Some come from privilege, some from seriously difficult backgrounds, and they are every one of them beginning an expensive and challenging program that will consume most of their time and energy for the next several years. When they graduate, they’ll be responsible for making potentially life and death decisions with their patients.  It’s enough to give just about anyone a bit of the jitters.

But the program is a great one, I’ve designed the workshop to provide the best foundation I can for all that is to come, and my hope for this class is that they pull on me to give them every thing I’ve got, and don’t waste their time or mine on foolish resistance to the common courtesies I require for passing.  I know that if they take me up on my challenge, and commit themselves to making the most of the time we have together, no excuses, the class will reverberate into their futures for a long time to come.

I’m posting this just before heading off to the school for day 2.  Although I’ve had some really great classes over the past few years, I’m pulling for an even higher quality experience than I’ve had before.   I’d like to experience the totality of a class taking responsibility for itself, where each student is eager to maximize their learning and minimize their drama, ready to do all the assignments and participate 100%.  It may seem like a lot to ask, because they have a full day of classes each day, and many of these students find it easier to lose their focus than to hold themselves accountable.  It’s a stretch, I know it’s hard, but I also know that this is earth, life is often hard, and the wise choise is to get it, get with it, and get on with it.

Wish me luck!  And please do share your comments with me.

Be well,


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