You pretty much have to trust your doctor with your life, so it’s very disconcerting for patients who experience serious problems and troubling symptoms to realize that not every doctor is a good listener. Some of them may act like they’re barely in the room with you. Others may outright dismiss your concerns based on some arbitrary idea of what you should look like or how you should behave if you’re “really” sick.

So how do you get a doctor to listen to you? Here are some tips:

  1. Walk in prepared. Make a list of questions you have and take a pen so that you can check them off. That may keep you from forgetting something important.
  2. Give lots of details. If you have some troubling symptoms that involve headaches, for example, go in with all the information your doctor may need to start making decisions about diagnostic steps. Write down when the headaches started, how frequent they are and what they feel like.
  3. Bring someone with you. Sometimes having someone else there in the room will boost your confidence when it comes to advocating for yourself. That person may also be able to think of questions you don’t.
  4. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to stop the doctor with a question even if they’re edging out of the room. Questions like, “If this medication doesn’t work, what’s Plan B?” and “I’m concerned about my symptoms. Is there a diagnostic test that can be run to rule out anything serious?” can help refocus your doctor’s attention.

Finally: Remember that you can fire your doctor and find a new one. If your doctor isn’t giving you their full attention during your visit, that can lead to medical mistakes and a serious injury.