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.
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.”
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.