By Janet Hagerman
We are used to wearing masks in dentistry, but previously we had the freedom to remove them for communication. The new PPE protocols now add additional barriers that further challenge effective communication with your patients. How will you sympathize, show empathy, create trust with your patients in your new gear?
Some of you may feel like a robot, devoid of your ability to communicate personally. However, remember the Star Wars droids/robots? How can anyone forget R2D2 and C-3PO? Although they looked cold and mechanical, they captured our hearts with their loyalty, courage, and humor.
How will you capture the trust and rapport of your patients upon returning to the new normal
Here are 5 tips to help you maximize your communication “soft” skills.
- Smile: While patients may not “see” your smile, can they “hear” it? That’s why many front desk staff put a mirror in front of them-to remind them to smile while on the phone. Studies show that you can “hear” a smile. Research has shown that smiles not only trigger visible changes to a person’s face, but also audible changes to the human voice. It is called an “auditory smile.” And we know that smiling brings a twinkle to your eyes… which brings us to the next step.
- Eye contact: Since our eyes are practically the only facial features visible, it is imperative we look directly at our patients making eye contact when speaking. Eyes are purported to be the windows to the soul, so now is the time to make use of this portal to visually “touch” and comfort your patients.
- Speech speed: Masks can cause your voice to sound muffled, so slow down your speaking, and articulate your words more deliberately. Also, pause occasionally between important words or phrases. Think of “pauses” like “commas” in a sentence.
- Humor: Humor is the best way to break the ice. Have fun with your new “costume” and your humor will put patients at ease.
- Stories: “The power of storytelling is to bridge the gap where everything else has crumbled.” -Paulo Coelho. As we begin to re-build our dental new normal, stories will be a most important way to immediately connect with your patients. Stories don’t have to be long, actually the shorter the better. And they don’t have to be yours, (as in: “one of our patients…”) Sharing a story that illustrates a personal experience that your patient can relate to (“Wow that’s exactly how I feel”) is the quickest way to treatment acceptance. (Read Kindra Hall’s “Stories That Stick”)
So, can you communicate effectively in your new PPE? Absolutely “yes” to the new normal. I challenge you to have fun with this and gain trust with your patients using these five tools.
Janet Hagerman is an international speaker, author, and consultant. A graduate of the Medical College of Georgia, Janet’s experience includes over 15 years of clinical experience, 20 years coaching experience with both solo practices and small to large dental groups, past corporate Dental Hygiene Director for a 150+ DSO, PennWell Editorial Advisory Board member, and as author of several books, as well as numerous articles and courses.