Language can be romantic, evocative, and flowery, or it can be brutal, ugly, and sometimes terrifying. It can give someone butterflies or lead to utter devastation and abject misery. One’s use of language can give patients an impression of an approachable and trustworthy person or a cold and arrogant clinician. Your choice of words can close a treatment plan, or you may never see that patient again. Naturally, this translates into the bottom line of your business and so it’s worth paying attention to the way we communicate with patients.
As dentists we invest a lot of time, money and energy developing skills and use a language that can mystify our patients. And it’s easy to speak jargon! How many times have we seen patient’s eyes begin to glaze over or they turn around to the dental nurse and asks them what they think? It is, of course, important to make a connection with a patient on their first visit. Establishing rapport goes hand in hand with trust and is of paramount importance if you hope your patient will accept your proposal. It shouldn’t be a sales pitch on fixing teeth if you hope to close the deal! Who gets excited about the prospect of getting nice new composite fillings? The patient is buying the result, not the treatment which is an important distinction.
You cannot underestimate the value of spending a few moments talking to the person in front of you. Perhaps avoid viewing them as your next cash cow, or a method to pay for your family vacation. Finding out a few pertinent facts about Fred or Sue helps them engage with you. How many kids have they got or what interests do they have? Then, importantly, write this on their notes to remind you for the next time. From the minute they are out the door, that pertinent fact I just learned has departed out my other ear! Imagine the legend you will be when in six months you ask Roger how he got on at his cup final. Some people are brilliant at remembering these little details, but I need prompting. The psychology of a person plays a large part, and we can talk about neuro-linguistic programming, or Freud’s psychoanalytical theories. But whilst understanding a person’s mind can be of value, simply being nice and having empathy goes a long way too.