Why does communication sometimes fail in dental practice?
Communication is a complex process, and the level of understanding varies from person to person. Many times failed communication leads to a strained relationship between a dentist and his or her patients.
Strong communication with patients is essential to develop healthy relationships with them. Patients will be able to respect and trust their dentist only when they get the dentist’s message without any confusion. An effective method of communication adopted by many dentists is called “VHF – Visual Hear Feel.”
Any advice not understood by patients will lead to frustration and confusion. The tone of the dentist, body language, and voice volume all contribute to the communication, maybe even more than the actual words spoken.
Have a look at these steps that can be taken to make communication with patients more successful and effective.
1. The wide spectrum of learning styles
Many patients will first try to understand your message visually. When a patient says, “I see what you mean,” you’re on the right track and getting your message across. Most people are more responsive to images, diagrams, and handouts, rather than long lectures.
Others might comment and give you a lead by saying, “I hear what you’re saying.” These patients are making note of the points that make the most sense to them. Some people like to learn hands-on and will say, “I know how it feels.” These are the ones who will take a dig at the brushing technique you’re promoting by actually trying it.
2. Adaptable approach to different personalities
Most of your patients can be classified into four personalities based on the findings of VHF.
- These patients take a lot of time to convince and will not buy anything until you back it up with sound logic. They are not emotion-driven but are highly organized and focused individuals. Know your facts and present those facts in a systematic manner when communicating with them.
- Such personalities are very assertive and have clear goals in mind. They will tell you exactly what they expect from you and will demand your undivided attention. You will be able to hold their attention only when you give them an optimum solution and a complete understanding of their problem.
- Patients with warm and genuine personalities fall into this group. They are emotional, will never get into a confrontation with you, and will ask you a lot of questions. They will be at ease once a personal bond is established and they can trust you.
- These folks are the most responsive of all groups, and they like to form a healthy relationship with the dentist. They like to get to know the doctor on a personal level to be able to trust and respect him or her. An approach that is formal and too technical does not work with them.
3. Block in communication
The basics of communications rest on three things:
- The sender of the message
- The actual message
- The receiver
Any block or obstruction in this process can create disharmony in the doctor-patient relationship. The manner in which you convey your message and what you do while delivering it is critical in the process. Your message needs to be to the point, clear and based on the patient’s level of understanding.