By Dr. David Black
Clinical excellence is a prerequisite for a successful practice. Because of our personalities and prior training, dentists strive to continue to improve their clinical skills. In spite of so many good clinical dentists, only a select few rise to greatness in their practice. Yet, I have observed that most developing dentists continue to emphasize clinical skills, when they do not have the communication and organizational skills to deliver that excellent product.
Given that clinical skill is a prerequisite, I would think dentists would do well to pay some attention to learning these communication skills. Communicating with patients and team is tied very closely to development of Dental Emotional Intelligence.
What is “Dental EQ”? Applying emotional intelligence to dentistry is learning what your emotional range is, how you react to certain circumstances and people, and learning how to interact with other people correctly by using these skills.
This works with interaction with both your team and your clients. First is discovering how to get the best and most out of your teammates. If you understand what motivates your team, and approach your management and leadership of them, by playing to their strengths, you will end up with a more powerful team, that can also work with emotional intelligence. One tool I have used is the DiSC personality styles profile. There are distinctive personality types that vary from quiet to outgoing, and driven to analytical. If you identify the individual skills of your team members and utilize their inherent abilities, they will be more productive. The fact that you even think to do this is exhibiting emotional intelligence.
Many of us have probably done that with out team to one degree or another. The difference may be, are you intentionally doing that. Intentionality is a quality of EQ. Deciding what your goals are and deliberately moving toward them is a decision not all dentists make. I know many dentists that play the victim, by just letting their practice “Happen”, with little intentional direction. I had a buddy that decided to not do composites because he felt his community was too poor to pay the extra fee. He also never did veneers and was late to start doing porcelain crowns. Was this intentional or not? The dentists next door did these services. I contend that a part of the difference is that he was not comfortable with discussing the benefits with his patients to create value in the enhanced procedures.
Which brings me to the next part of Dental EQ. Communications with patients will determine what type practice you have. People rarely place doing what they need above what they want. To get them to want something, often WE must create a value for what we think they need. Some people are naturally gifted communicators, but most of us have to learn how to apply our Dental EQ to treatment acceptance.
The first step is to TALK to your patient to find out about them and what they want. More importantly, you have to LISTEN to what your patients says and interpret what it means. That is not the normal exam that consists of “Hi, I am Doctor Black. Lean back and we will figure out your problems and how I am going to Fix it”.
First, you must find out who they are, and what is going on in their life. Do they have kids in college, do they have medical issues, are they a single parent, and how is their job? All these things speak to their READINESS to do dentistry and their ABILITY to do it at this time. Why is that important? If you suggest $10,000 of dentistry to someone who does not have the ability or is not ready, they will often leave and not get treatment. You have to use your Dental EQ and be insightful in this situation. You may need to spread the treatment out over time or do it in phases. You need to ASK them about their ability and readiness. That is having emotional intelligence.
Once you have these things worked out, you can do a full exam and presentation, and work to get the best possible dentistry they can afford, want and value.
In my book, “Dental EQ”, I discuss this and how to improve your emotional intelligence as applied to you and your dental practice. It is a simple process, but not an easy one. It takes study and practice, but will pay big dividends when improving your case acceptance and teamwork.
Dr. Black’s 43+years of clinical experience, mentors such as Drs. Pankey and Dawson, and integration of information from four major consulting firms give Dr. Black expertise in a wide range of topics.