The Power of Words


We all know the importance of interaction with others and the difference that one or two words can make in the interpretation of one’s intent. As dental professionals we are communicating with each other and patients often on a different level. Patients are typically not at all happy to be there with you, and tend to shut down as a result. And as far as fellow team members go, it isn’t unusual for a busy, hectic day to bring out the worst in each other.

With this said, it’s helpful to know that there are many different ways to get a point across. The power of words can take a non-cooperative patient and turn them around; or cause a team member filled with negative emotions to stop dead in their tracks and listen.If we stop to think about it, many outcomes can be switched by simply taking a totally different approach.

For example, let’s talk about the new patient that calls and begins to rattle off their treatment needs based on their current dentist’s diagnosis. Grabbing a fee schedule and quoting the fees your practice charges is not the way to go. Shift gears, stop before you start, and get to know the patient a bit. telephone

Ask questions about how they found you, welcome them to the neighborhood, befriend them first and foremost and for heaven’s sake if they haven’t shared it as yet, ask them their name and let them know yours (again). Invite them in to meet you, the team the doctor. This particular “drill” is always dangerous for many reasons and truthfully, it rarely secures a long-standing patient. Cold callers are overwhelmingly “tire-kickers”, and the best you can do for them is to assure them that they called the right place by communicating a “welcoming” message.

Now consider the hygienist who has just treated a new patient for the first time. The patient stated on the initial phone call that they “only want a cleaning”. We all know that it’s never “just a cleaning”, since there is much more that goes into that visit. And by the way, why would we call it a “cleaning” anyway? Think about how misleading and vague this term is when we all know that there are varying degrees of treatment necessary in the hygiene department. I encourage all team members to refer to treatment coming out of the hygiene room as a Hygiene Visit, Continuing Care, or anything else your team agrees upon that leaves it more open-ended. How much easier it will be for everyone to communicate with the patients coming from an entirely different mind-set.

Then team members, have you ever gone to your employer and said “I need a raise”? What about “I’ve been here for years and my salary is exactly as it was when I was first hired.”

When all of this might be true, the real truth of the matter is that you have “earned” your raise. This should be based on the measurable difference your contributions have made–the fact that you are never late and rarely absent, along with other factors that represent the “value” your employment has brought to the practice.

Here’s another one. Having a disagreement or issue with a fellow team member, be it another employee or employer. When the time comes that you feel there is a reason to address it, never start the conversation with “This is what you do…”, but rather “This is how you make me feel.” womanpointing

Your feelings are only yours so no one can dispute that you are “wrong”. If you are feeling uncomfortable, sad, or even threatened, they’re your feelings and no one else’s. Approach the interaction with “this is how I feel and leave it at that.” Let the conversation flow with healthy interactive discourse.

In closing, I’d like to bring to your attention another commonly used statement that might work against you. When you call a patient to fill an open appointment in your day, using words such as “cancellation” or “failed appointment” can leave a negative impression. Did you ever think that perhaps the patient is hearing, ”We must fill a spot and just grabbed your name so that you can do that for us.” ow about H How about changing to “We noticed we had an adjustment in our schedule and thought perhaps it would make it easier for you to come in today.”

There are many examples along with these, so keep in mind that if the way you are expressing yourself is not delivering the results you were hoping for, consider the words you have chosen to use.

The Missing Piece


What happened to the great employee I hired 4 months ago?


So you are a dentist that prides him/herself in utilizing exceptional hiring protocols? You have systems in place, conduct thorough due diligence, dot your I’s and cross your T’s and you still find that the great new team member you hired a few months ago is not the same as when he/she first came on board.

How does this happen when you’ve done everything by the letter? You’ve studied materials from some of the industry greats. You’ve read books on successful hiring techniques. Perhaps you’ve worked with me and applied all the support materials and recommendations I have suggested, and yet the bottom still fell out. What went wrong? You did everything “by the book”!

What happened? You think something must be missing. Well you’re right, there is a piece missing. Yes, you have ignored one important part of the puzzle and it is called maintenance.

This is no different than the maintenance that you give to your patients. Once they are brought back to oral health does it mean your job as their healthcare provider stops? It’s great that your hygienist has successfully taken a patient with advanced periodontal disease to a healthy mouth, but does this mean you forget them? Isn’t maintenance the next step to keeping a healthy, happy patient?

The same goes for employees. For your new hires you give them the tools and the support coming in, but advancements have us making adjustments all the time, not to mention the arrival of new team members which can often alter the landscape of the practice.

When a good working relationship “goes south” after a number of months I have found that the main reason this occurs is that the communication is poor or even worse, it totally stops. We assume that at 2, 3, or 4 months the employee should not need much “tweaking” or “attention”, but this is misguided.

I have been approached by employees with tenures of 5, 10, 15 years or more that came to me because they were contemplating a change. The words I heard often were “taking me for granted” or “I’m just a fixture around here.” I’ve been surprised to also learn that on occasion an employer wouldn’t even include a tenured team member in a team discussion because they assumed that they have been with the practice so long that they would tell me, “hey, she knows more than I do”.

Granted, this can be quite flattering to the long-term employee and surely no harm is meant by the employer. I actually believe they see it as a plus–that this is a very positive, complimentary statement. “You’ve been with the practice so long Suzie, there is no need for me to involve you in these little things.” Well, truthfully, nothing is little when adjustments are to be made or new systems are to be implemented (or someone is requiring some coaching in an area or two).

In closing I want to remind you that every successful relationship, no matter who is involved, is based on continuing and ongoing communication. That is–clear, focused and sincere communication and remembering to never take anyone or anything for granted.

This is what long-standing, successful relationships are built on.