Your patients are stressed out.
Even if you can’t tell, the majority of patients have anxiety when they step into your practice, and that stress is amplified when they get in the chair.
It’s likely that no one told you before you were already mouth-deep, but possessing an exceptional level of emotional intelligence is part of the skillset needed to work in a dental or orthodontic practice, and this is why. Emotions are the root of communication, and as an oral health professional, communicating is key to helping your patients cope with their stress.
Emotionally Intelligent Conversations Can Produce Positive Emotional Responses
According to Rachel Green, the Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute, what is said and how you say it can significantly impact the people with whom you are speaking. When stressed out patients sit down in your chair, they trust you to ease their anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s common for communication during treatment to elicit more angst than it manages to relieve.
You can carry on an emotionally intelligent conversation with your patients even while they sit in the dental chair; however, the art of communication requires that you ask the right questions and discuss topics that seem less institutional. Discussing topics that seem somewhat personal can make the patient feel that he or she is not just your patient; this feeling of friendship frequently builds loyalty.
Even if you think you’re a good communicator, look through the following techniques and weigh them against your communication habits. Are you helping, or making it worse?
Dental Chair Conversation Techniques During Treatment
Never put the answer in the question you ask, like “You have been busy this summer, haven’t you?”
This question can have a variety of answers, leaving the patient scrambling for something to say. Beyond this, and even more likely, it is nearly impossible to answer this question during treatment, which increases anxiety levels further.
Instead, ask a particular yes or no question, “Have you gone to the beach this summer?” Asking a yes or no question gives your patient the ability to voice, “uh-huh” for yes or “uh-uh” for no.
Examples of yes and no questions:
- “Are you ready for the holidays?”
Wait for your patient to answer and then you can mention your position on the holidays. For example, you may say, “I have been procrastinating and still have lots of shopping left” or “I started early and I’m almost done.”
- “Did you have a chance to visit the fair this year?”
Again, wait for your patient to answer and then you can mention something fair-related. For example, if your patient missed the fair, you might say, “It’s a shame you didn’t go, that miniature horse was surely a sight to see.”
Technique Two: Comedic Relief
There is no doubt that jokes related to your industry are in abundance, and – corny or not – they are often an effective method of communication to relieve a patient’s anxiety.
Try to take a few moments here and there to learn a new joke. When you share your joke with your patients remember to show enthusiasm, even if you have already told it 10 times that day.
Technique Three: Ask for Feedback
Don’t assume you can anticipate what your patients need. Rather, ask your patients how they are doing periodically.
Questions you should ask include:
- Do you need to swallow?
- Would you like a break for a minute or two?
- Is the suction in the right place? If not, I will redirect it.
By asking your patients questions about their comfort level throughout their visit, you show them you care. When your patients feel comfortable and cared for, your emotional intelligence has improved the relationships you share with your patients.
A trip to your practice can often elicit anxiety in and of itself. You owe it to your patients, and yourself, to learn ways of communicating smoothly, with techniques for easing anxiety rather than amplifying it.