One of the most valuable tools we have is words. They can be used to educate, make a point, console and even harm. Many times, we are not even aware of the affect words have on others. Take into account the statement - I hate oysters. It brings a great emotion to the creature that lives in the water. Do you really HATE oysters or is it the taste, texture or thought of eating an oyster?
Possibly a better statement would be - I’m not a fan of eating oysters. This softens the emotion and removes the hate from a simple being that brings us those beautiful pearls. Now, if you had been out oystering and grab for one without gloves on. it might hurt you; however, I still don’t think the term hate is in order. But I digress….
Our language is filled with terms and words that conjure up deep emotions that trigger reactions in interesting ways. Think about your immediate reaction to these statements:
My mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I bought a new car.
I won the lottery.
We have a cancellation for today.
I’ve lost 20 pounds.
I’ve gained 20 pounds.
My dog died.
I voted for Trump.
Everyone reacts to these statements in a different way. Emotions of empathy, happy, sad, elated and even anger. Now more than ever it is important to think about the words before they leave our mouths.
I would, now, like to bring this conversation into the dental office. Some words we say, bring happy, sad, elated and even anger emotions by the way that we communicate with our patients. We can add to that confusion, panic and yes, even hatred.
A word that brings immediate reaction is: INSURANCE.
Are you the person that sits on hold for 45 minutes just have some numb-skull tell you they can’t answer that question?
Are you the patient that thinks that your plan is better than gold and pays 100% of everything?
Are you the person that has to explain to this patient that their plan is actually sub-par and pays very little?
What are all the reactions to these statements/questions?
A few changes in phraseology that I would like to suggest be used in the dental office include:
Dental Insurance to Dental Benefits
Fees to Your Investment
Cancellation to Change in our schedule
We are no longer in network with Aetna to We’ve adjusted our status with Aetna.
Has your insurance changed? to Do you still have Aetna insurance through ABC plumbing?
We have you scheduled to We have reserved Tues, January 8th
Patient doesn’t need to come back to We will see her at her next hygiene appointment
Do you want to schedule? to Dr X can take care of this next week – would Tues or Wed be better for you?
Is the schedule full? to Is the schedule productive?
OK, I’ll cancel your appointment to I hate to hear that you can’t make your reserved appointment time.
Vague communication can be just as damaging to the conversation. Statements like:
Dr will call you right back.
You shouldn’t be here long.
That’s just a little filling.
Stop by the office anytime and we will take care of that temp that came out.
Be as specific as you can - Dr will call you back by the end of the day, You will be here about an hour, That’s a one surface filling, if you come by at 3:30, we can put that temp back on.
Finally, I’d like to address negative language that I hear often. The phrase “I don’t know” is a total conversation stopper. It literally means that the speaker has given up on the thought and will not take a stab at the question posed. If you really don’t know the answer, that’s ok; just don’t give up. A proper response would be “That’s a great question; let me find out.”
Other negative words include: But, can’t, won’t, haven’t, etc. Find a way to pose the answer in a positive light: use however or yet in place of but. The definition of but is that it is contrary to the original thought which means that anything stated before but is negated.
Of course, any who knows me, knows that I hate (yep, I said it) the phrase No problem or No worries. Was it a problem? Was it a worry?
What happened to a simple Your Welcome? Or even better My Pleasure?
Words are a valuable tool that we use every day to communicate with our fellow humans. Our words can allow us to speak civilly &/or conjure up deep emotions, purposefully or accidentally. As children we learned the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, it is not always true, is it? We may not get hurt physically, however; words can hurt. Let’s find words that will educate, communicate, console and make a point without inflicting scars that last a lifetime. Words matter. Be kind!
Denise Ciardello, Consultant
Denise is co-founder of Global Team Solutions. A professional speaker and published author, her enthusiasm and knowledge about the dental profession has helped many dental teams. She brings experience, insight, and creativity into her management style, along with a sense of humor. In a profession that can cause anxiety in some dental employees.
Denise’s consulting approach is to partner with doctors and team members to help them realize the dream of creating a thriving, successful practice.
Denise can be reached at: email@example.com