We are a group of Dental Consultants who offer, improved practice morale; a happier, more profitable patient base;and improved home life; increased collections. (And yes, our average is 35% in year one.)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Communication Style

On Monday we discussed communication styles. This article covers examples of communication styles. Let me give you a few examples: 

Here is a personal example: I’m a task person.  My wife is a processor.  Before leaving on a business trip, I notice one tire on her car seems a bit low.  I say, “While I’m gone, get the pressure in your tires checked, okay.”  When I arrive home a week later I ask her if she had someone check her tires.  She says, “No, they looked fine to me.”  I then realize in my rush I had failed to take into consideration her need for details.  I then explain if she drove on those particular tires with low air pressure they could easily roll right off the rims.  She looks shocked and says, “Why didn’t you tell me that?” and immediately leaves to go get her tires checked.   The speaker holds the content and intent of the words, but the listener has the power to interpret the speaker’s intent, or how it is received.  My intent was she get her tires checked; it was interpreted by her as a suggestion.

Here is a dental office example:  Dr. Jan Molar, a TASK person, arrives to work in the morning and says to Sally the PROCESSOR office manager, “I need a collection report.” Instead of simply printing a collection report, Sally is thinking, what does she want it for? Is there a discrepancy?  Is she looking at write offs?  Insurance balances? Patient financial arrangements? Aged balance totals or what?  In order for her to do her job properly she asks, “Why? What do you need it for?”  Dr. Molar now has a choice.  She can understand that Sally is a PROCESSOR and needs details to get it done correctly, or she can become offended and wonder why Sally is questioning her request instead of simply doing it.

Same Scenario: Dr. Molar knows Sally’s style. She says, “Sally, I would like to compare this month’s write offs to last months, to see how insurance is affecting us. Will you run a collection report for me, please?“ If Sally knows her doctor is a TASK person then she can keep her need for details to the bare minimum while still getting the basic information she needs. 
With the first office scenario it is possible for both parties to end up with hurt feelings, or feelings of frustration or a lack of trust.  When one perceives the other as abrupt or wasting time, thinking errors can take over.  The most common error in thinking is personalization.  Personalization means we take whatever is said as being our fault or being directed against us.   A PROCESSOR like Sally may think, “She wants a collection report, doesn’t she trust me?  Does she think I’m not doing my job?”   

This leads to Sally acting differently toward others and pretty soon you have an entire team of people wondering what is going on.  On the other hand the doctor could personalize all the questions being asked as “Why does she always question me?  She seems to hesitate to do what I ask and delays every task by asking for more details. Is she hiding something?”  You can see that not understanding each other’s communication style has the potential to lead to massive misunderstandings.
Understanding the PROCESSORS and TASK persons in your office, including yourself is a key to better communication.  PROCESSORS might be more likely to ask questions, but they may also be likely to come up with alternative ways of thinking, creating easier more efficient ways to complete tasks. The TASK persons may not ask questions but can quickly take on any job and get results. Developing your team’s understanding of the two different styles can increase their ability to accept each other. 

Asking someone to change how they communicate may be asking too much, but to ask yourself is not. As the leader you are setting the example. You can develop a style that works for the office. Knowing the way each of your team members likes to be communicated with will allow you to make repairs in the event that your words were interpreted differently than you originally intended.  In the heat of the moment, even the best communicators make mistakes. Remember with whatever style someone prefers, there is always room for Please and Thank you. One silver bullet can never take care of everything. What you say and how you say it is always left to the listener’s interpretation. With practice, this is an excellent way to improve your quality of life just as the title suggests.

For more information please visit us at www.saltdpm.com and follow our blog at http://saltdentalpracticemanagement.blogspot.com/

By David Milligan, Salt Dental Practice Management
Article was first published by Tri-County Dental Society

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