We all have natural tendencies and preferences; behaving opposite them requires a lot of energy and can wear us down. Imagine what could happen on a road trip where one person enjoys the experience of being on the road while the other just wants to get to the destination.Regular stops for scenery and snacks then become a disaster.
We come across similar experiences every day in our dental practices. Let us assume that you are the quiet, task-oriented person but your patient gets comfortable by talking and expects you to do the same. Or, let us assume the opposite where you are the outgoing, people-oriented person and your patient just wants to get things done and get out. Regardless, it is all about understanding ourselves and others, and adapting.
From the moment our patients begin to interact with us, they give us clues that let us know how they want us to approach them. For example, a patient who answers the health history’s “Yes/No” questions with further explanation could be a detail-oriented one. We’d better not ignore any of the information. Unfortunately, there is no absolute mathematical equation that explains the reasons behind people’s behavior.
I believe that I am naturally an introvert. After a long day of work, I need a quiet break to recharge; a true extrovert prefers to go out and chat with someone. My natural tendencies used to control my behavior. Instead of mingling with my team when I had available time at work, I used to sit in my office and read a dental journal “to become a better dentist.” I was shocked when I learned that our team members felt that I did not care about them. Imagine how my patients felt!
In an effort to become a better patient care provider and dental team leader, I ventured into the world of behavior analysis. I was attempting to understand my own behavior and that of others. For almost a year, I had phone training for half an hour with a behavioral specialist every other week.
The DISC behavioral language worked for me. It simply measures behavior and how we communicate. Behavior is divided into four groups:
1. Those who state more than they ask, and tend to be blunt and to the point. They focus on results and thus need to direct us. They get angry easily, so attend to their needs immediately.
2. Those who tell stories and anecdotes and digress during conversations. They focus on the experience and they need to interact.Give them chance to talk and share your personal stories.
3. Those who ask more than they state and use a slow pace. They focus on listening to understand. Get to know them well on a personal level.
4. Those who like facts and prefer less verbal, more written communication. They focus on gathering data. Be ready to quote research.
Our whole team completed one of these questionnaires to determine each member’s behavioral style. Everyone committed to adapting, including the doctors. Maybe in the future, patients can complete one of these questionnaires so we can serve them better.
Samer S. Alassaad, DDS