I’m sitting in my curtained cubicle, in jeans and a drafty cotton hospital gown, waiting for the technician to usher me in for a mammogram. I’ve had this procedure before and know enough not to wear deodorant, which can apparently leave tiny deposits on the skin that might show up on the X-ray as a suspicious dot. A nurse had also reminded me.

A new requirement this time was instruction on the back of the requisition form to have no caffeine for three days before — specifically no coffee, tea or chocolate. Having followed the instruction, although I didn’t know the reason for it, I have desperately wanted a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate for three days.

After the mammogram, I found out that the reason for “no caffeine” is that caffeine may make you more likely to find the procedure painful. And if you’ve ever had a mammogram, you know that soft tissue + hard plate + compression is kind of headed in that direction anyway.

How many women disregarded the instruction about caffeine, not understanding its value to them? How many women didn’t even SEE the instruction, because it was on the back page of the requisition that was already dense with text? Why didn’t the office staff share the good news that I could possibly make the whole visit more agreeable, by telling me about it?

My point is this: Whether you are a doctor or a CEO or a parent, it helps if you explain WHY you want something to happen. It also helps if you explain this in multiple ways. Don’t assume everyone already knows what to do and why it’s a good thing to do it.

Oh, and get your mammogram. It’s not gentle, but it’s a smart thing to do.

Photo credit: Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.