Would you like to communicate better with your team, patients and others in your life? Have you ever found yourself being misunderstood or perhaps facing resistance, and you don’t understand why? If so, keep reading! If not, I still urge you to keep reading, as I’ll bet you will pick something useful up!

communicating with dental patients

1. Sorry

I am betting you use “sorry” WAY too much. I am not saying be mean or that you can’t ever be “sorry,” just that as a culture we overuse it a LOT.

My eyes and mind were opened to this by a mentor and coach of mine, Wayne Pernell, with whom we have been working on communication in my office. The point is this: think about all the times you say “sorry.” If someone walks around you at a store, I bet you often say “sorry,” and if you stop and think, that’s a bit absurd. 

Were not you standing where you needed to be? It’s not like you blocked them or moved into their path. Are you really “sorry” you were standing where you needed to be? 

OK here is another, perhaps better, example: someone sends you an email and it takes a while, dare I say longer than you or they would have liked because you were super busy taking care of other, perhaps more urgent, issues. I bet you tend to start your email with “sorry.” Were you not doing things that also really required your attention? It’s not like you were blowing them off. So are you really sorry you took care of those other things? 

In a case like this, I would replace sorry with something like “thank you for your patience.” The email example can be shifted slightly to when you’re running late because something took longer with another patient. You shouldn’t be “sorry” you took care of the patient that made you run late, but you can thank the patient you ran late with for their patience.

2. But

How often do you counter or reply to someone with “but?” I bet a bunch! Here’s the deal: “but” often has the effect of making the other person feel bad or wrong.

For instance, someone comes to you and says they did something trying to meet your approval on a task you asked them to complete, and while they did OK, something was not perfect. If you respond with, “but if you had done x, y or z it would have been even better,” you just shut them down and squashed their pride and feeling of accomplishment. If you turn it around and instead of “but ...” you say something like, “next time let’s try x, y or z,” you will be more effective in that you did not squash them but rather coached them on a great effort so far and how to be even better next time!

3. All Set

I used to end appointments by saying something like, “well, you’re all set …”as I thought it was a positive statement along the lines of, “hey we did great and we are all done! Good job at being a great patient and letting us take care of you,” just in a more condensed/efficient form. 

Then it was brought to my attention that what they are hearing is, “we are done, get out.” Like you, that’s the last thing we want to say or by a poor choice of words such as “all set” have patients here. Slow down, take your time and spend time letting the patient know what you did for them and how you really appreciate them.

(Click this link for more dentistry articles by Dr. John Carson.)

John R. Carson, D.D.S., P.C., Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author - www.johncarsondds.com