Soft Skills

Dental School Taught You WHAT To Say...Not How To Say It.

I'm sure we're all familiar with the saying "It's not what you said..It's HOW you said it!".

Usually my wife says this to me after a heated discussion about some conflict we are having. In my mind, I so clearly communicate a point that I'm sure will be interpreted as an indisputable logical victory. I will win her over and change her mind...motivate her to see things MY way...But, despite my well crafted argument...one that I was so sure was right, and the key to winning my the discussion...Somehow ends up being the point in the conflict where the wheels fall off and things completely fall apart. I end up being the Jerk again. WHY? Because it's not WHAT I said but HOW I said it!

Do you think this is related to delivering a treatment plan to a dental patient? I assure you, it is. 

It's weird to me how much of being a trusted and successful dentist has to do with "soft" skills rather than "technical" ones. I'm talking about EQ vs IQ and communication and empathy. Success in dentistry is less related to delivering all the facts (the what), and more about how you deliver the facts and how your discussion relates to a patients emotional triggers. These triggers are the things that win over patients and allow  them to confidently BUY what you are selling. Dental school taught you WHAT to talk about. It taught you what to explain technically what is going on and why a patient should care. We are taught to talk in statistics, data (evidence based dentistry) and reason and logic. But you know what? Most patients are NOT logical and most do not care about studies and statistics...mainly because they don't understand what they mean. 

Many patients DO NOT WANT comprehensive care! Yes, that's right. I said it....But, you know what? It's true. I love the situations where I walk in to the room, greet a new patient... and after discussing treatment options they say, "I want what's best, I want the Ideal treatment plan".  Yep, that's nice. We get to do dentistry the way we were taught to do, we get to work with a motivated patient, and maybe get to do some cool dentistry along the way. Nice, yes...Common, no. Most dentists are not lucky enough to work in some gem of a location where everyone has $10,000 dollars sitting around for an ideal treatment plan? However, all is not lost. You just have to get good at motivating patients and meeting them where they are at mentally and emotionally. You probably cannot convince them to value comprehensive care in one conversation, but you can start them down a path of small steps to more ideal dental care. If they feel manipulated or like you are "selling"...they walk. If they feel like you are working with them, and understand THEIR desires and interest...you gain trust and establish a the beginning of a lifelong dental relationship. 

So...two take away points to remember: 

1) The first step is to realize that this is the reality of humanity: most often we are procrastinators and avoiders who would rather buy an iPad or new cell phone vs. receive comprehensive dental care.

2) The second step is to realize that YOUR job is to motivate people to do what is in their best interest (dentistry) and show that how it will change their life...either by improving something they can perceive, or avoiding something far worse (like missing teeth or pain). You need to find out what they want..what their fears and hang ups are...and then deliver your plan in a way the patient can perceive (emotionally) value. You will likely need to be patient, win their trust, and allow them to work into a comprehensive plan over time. This means that walking into the operatory of an unmotivated patient, stating that the patient "needs" 10 crowns because of decay, and then tossing them a treatment plan estimate of $10,000 - is probably the WORST way to motivate a patient, and the BEST way to have them never return again. 

Needless to say...It's complicated and a skill that must be developed. This is NOT taught in Dental School and is difficult to learn. But, the successful dentist (with raving fans), is the one who can master this skill. If you're interested in learning more...check out Liftoff Academy, where we go in depth on what to say and HOW TO SAY IT - How to motivate patients and gain their trust. 

Until Next Time,

Cole Brenny DDS