Because You’ve Run in Their Shoes

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By Ben Montgomery,*

To quote one of the great characters of American fiction, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

According to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, learning this is a simple trick that can help you “get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.” It’s a point he makes while urging his daughter, Scout, to not judge her neighbors so quickly and too harshly.

Yet, if you flip the advice around, another valuable point can be made about creating relationships within a community—about how people are more likely to flock to (and buy from) physical therapists and others they consider to be part of “their tribe.”

These are physical therapists who, in other words, have run a mile in their own shoes, who have experienced pain and injury, struggled reaching performance or fitness goals, or who simply know the hurdles of maintaining an active and healthful lifestyle.

Such parallels are about more than just being relatable, though that’s an important part of it.

Shared experiences help people connect and communicate more deeply, establishing a level of common respect, understanding, and credibility that can lead potential patients to your door and improve their overall experiences and outcomes.

But to make such connections, they first have to know about you: your experiences, your personality, your lifestyle. How do they get to know you? Here are a couple of suggestions: Leave the Clinic: Don’t be the frog that sits in the pond all day with his mouth open, waiting for a fly to crawl in. Put on your educator’s cap and head out to schools, senior centers, or youth athletic fields (for example) and put on community workshops that add a value to people’s lives—and of course make personal connections with those who might welcome you into their tribes.

Be Involved: In other words, publicly practice what you preach. If you’re a runner, join (and perhaps even sponsor) a local running club. Volunteer to coach a youth sports team. Help out a local movement-based nonprofit. Whatever your interests, your community offers you a way to connect with your clinic’s ideal demographics in one way or another.

Tell Stories: Whenever you communicate, either in person or through media and marketing efforts, always be a storyteller. This doesn’t mean you have to come up with the next great American novel every time you post to your blog. Rather, help prospective clients better envision themselves as central players in stories about better movement and improved lives through physical therapy.

Lynn Steffes

Ben Montgomery is a former journalist who applies years of copywriting and message development experience toward serving physical therapists through, the marketing services arm of Vantage Clinical Solutions, which serves private practice clinicians with content marketing and web development solutions. He can be reached at

*This author has a vested interest in this subject.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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