By Dr. Deborah Marynak
Communication. It’s a big word in more than one way. It affects your relationship with yourself, your family, friends and co-workers. Our focus today will be on its role in the Dental office, whether you’re the owner/Dentist or employee/Team. No real success in Dentistry will happen without clear, open, honest communication; without communication an office suffers high turnover, unresolved problems and frustration felt by the entire Staff and the patients.
According to Joseph DeVito in his book The Interpersonal Communication Book, there are 5 characteristics in becoming an effective communicator. These 5 issues are openness, empathy, supportiveness, positivity, and equality.
Openness: Doctors need to be approachable for the Staff to feel comfortable in bringing problems to his or her attention. Sharing outside interests or hobbies in speaking with the Staff as one person to another (rather than as boss to employee) helps the Team to see them as a ‘regular person.’
Employees should be approachable as well; daily casual conversation should be open and friendly. Employees shouldn’t openly share personal problems in the workplace. If personal problems could potentially affect job performance, an open conversation with your boss is appropriate.
Empathy: Empathy is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “mental entrance into the spirit of another person or thing; appreciative perception or understanding.” In a professional setting, this can be difficult, but necessary. It allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and helps you to understand how they’re feeling.
Supportiveness: An individual in a position of power needs to be understanding rather than judgmental. This can be difficult when an owner Dentist has his or her mind set on the productivity of the day. That said, productivity will prevail in an atmosphere of support. If criticism rears its ugly head, everyone pulls back in spirit and productivity will suffer.
Positivity: This is big. No one wants to come to work when the individual in charge is constantly negative. It’s important to keep a positive attitude, appreciate the things going well in the workday and properly address the issues not going well. A positive attitude will make the day easier, more satisfying and you’ll go home feeling better.
Equality: Peter Gopal put this so well, I’ve decided to quote his article: “This is essential for sharing of information and effective teamwork. It indicates mutual respect. While it is understood that the dentist owner often has more schooling and years of experience, they need to value input from all employees at all levels and work with them as peers.”
Listening: This step in communication should really be listed as number one. Listening effectively is the most important component of communication we do every waking hour. A common downfall to communication entails too much talking and a lack of focus while listening. When we become passive listeners, we can miss important details and this can lead to misinterpretation of the message. Other factors to effective listening include body posture, facial expressions, averting eyes and head; all of these are indications of disinterest and unimportance both to what’s being said and who’s saying it.
Communication Part 2 coming next: Communication Problems in the Dental Office
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
– Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Achievement
Dr. Deborah Marynak is the owner of DentalStaffing.org, a dentist with over 30 years experience, and is committed to helping Dental Professionals find the right fit for both employees and employers. She also works with Dental Offices to help them streamline their clinical systems and teach Dental Teams how to effectively document to avoid risk.