« 19. Dental chair conversations: EQ skills 6-10 »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Emotions have a significant impact on communication with dental patients. What you say and how you say it can influence the emotions of your patients as you are working on them in the dental chair. This is why you can benefit from having high levels of emotional intelligence as a dentist.

Emotional intelligence impacts on your communication skills. This article will therefore focus on ways to talk with your dental patients while they are in the dental chair, and how to do this in an emotionally intelligent way so you produce the best possible emotional response in them.

This is the second article in a set of three on emotional intelligence skills for dentists.

EQ skills 6: Don't put the answer in the question

When you are asking your patients a question, don't put the answer in the question.

One day, my dentist said to me, "You've been so busy, haven't you?" It left nothing for me to say.

  • Instead try, "What kinds of things have you done this Christmas?"
  • Instead of, "Is it still hot outside?" "What kinds of things have you been doing to cope with the heat?"

Ask more open-ended questions. If you're not sure how to do this, the "Business Networking: The skills you need" DVD will give more information.

Don't leave your patients with nothing to say, they could feel thwarted - which is not really the best emotion to evoke in them, is it?

EQ skills 7: Make visual stimuli visible

Having visual or auditory stimuli in your room can be an excellent way to distract patients from drill noises, pain and discomfort.

If you do this, position them so the patient can see or hear them easily.

One dentist I went to had a Lowry painting on the ceiling. I loved it and used to count the number of people on it. My previous dentist had a television but it wasn't in the best place for the patient as her head got in the way.

And by the way, ask the patient if they'd like the television on or not. Do not assume that everyone wants to hear or see it. After all, some of the TV topics could be quite distasteful or disturbing or simply plain irritating.

Manage the emotions of your patients by talking to them about their preferences. No two patients are the same.

EQ skills 8: Ask patients for feedback

Always be willing to ask your patents how they are as you work in their mouths.

Don't assume you can always read or anticipate what a patient needs. Ask.

  • Ask patients if they need a break.
  • Would you like to swallow?
  • How is the suction - is it in the right place?
  • Do you want a moment's respite, to take a deep breath ... or whatever?

Asking shows you care. A caring dentist is usually more popular than one who is perceived as not caring. If patients feel cared for you have elicited a helpful emotional state in them; this is being emotionally intelligent.

EQ skills 9: Remember the patient from one visit to the next

Build an ongoing healthy relationship with your dental patients and it will be easier to manage and understand their emotions, which is all part of emotional intelligence. 

Find out information about them and then include it in your conversations with them. For example:

  • If you remember the patient's partners or children ask, "How is ......?".
  • If you remember she was going on holiday, ask how her trip was.
  • If you remember he had started a new job ask "How is your new job going? or ask "How does your new job compare with your old job?". Show an interest in his job and talk about it.

This is good communication and leaves the impression that you care. It means you're treating the patient as a human being and not just a dental record.

This is a productive application of emotional intelligence skills in your dental practice. The better able you are to use high levels of emotional intelligence skills, along with high level technical ones, the more likely you are to advance your career.

EQ skills 10: Talk about your patient's reactions

Talk to your patients about their reactions. Ask them about their reactions in the dental chair.

  • Is there anything they need to help them cope/stay comfortable?
  • Anything you can do to make the process easier?

Okay, some of us will just joke and say, "Yes, throw the drill away", but others, such as me, could tell you quite specific things. I can tell you what I do to relax and how you can help, and what you do to increase my tension and how you can avoid it.

Let me as your patient help you make your job easier. This is emotionally intelligent, isn't it?

A relaxed patient is easier to deal with than a tense one.

The way you communicate to your patients can make all the difference. If I think you care, I am more likely to return to you next time I require dental work, aren't I? This is a good sign of a successful dentist.

Develop your team's EQ skills, now

There is so much more that you and your team can do to develop your emotional intelligence and conversation skills in your dental practice. The Institute has a number of options to help you:
  1. There are CDs, books and DVDs. The DVD "Business Networking: The skills you need" and "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions" are ideal for dental teams. 
  2. There is a series of advanced emotional intelligence master-classes. Of great value to your dental team is: "Positivity Resonance for high EI leaders". 
  3. There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. There are several of value in dentistry including: "Networking skills: Meet, speak and exit well" and "How to keep your cool with difficult people". 
  4. There is a dynamic keynote speech on networking and conversation skills: "Easy meet: Sizzling networking success" which will get your conference, seminar or event buzzing.
  5. There is 1-1 emotional intelligence coaching for dentists and practice managers.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us and we will discuss your options with you.

Develop your emotional intelligence now and build your dental practice.