To be six again

Aug. 13, 2012
Our means of communication are more varied and lightening fast, which has resulted in shorter and less focused attention spans.

By Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen

A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching his wife, who was looking at herself in the mirror. Since her birthday was not far off, he asked what she'd like to have for her birthday. “I'd like to be six again,” she replied, still looking in the mirror.

On the morning of her birthday, he woke up early, made her a nice big bowl of Lucky Charms, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park: the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything there was. Five hours later, they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down. He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie: popcorn, soda pop, and her favorite candy, M&M's. What a fabulous adventure!

Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed exhausted. He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, “Well dear, what was it like being six again?” Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. “I meant my dress size!”

Like many of you, I received this forwarded joke in my email inbox and although the moral was something about men not listening, it made me think of failures of communication in all areas of our society. Take this example: you order your hamburger, and as you tell the young person through the speaker that you do not want onions on it, someone makes a noise in the background and your comment goes unnoticed. You do not even think about it again until you take a big bite into the burger and the taste of onion permeates through your taste buds, down your throat and into your stomach. Yuck!

Our means of communication are more varied and lightening fast, which has resulted in shorter and less focused attention spans. Initially, we complained about how our youth would grab their cell phones at the mere hint of an incoming text, regardless of who was talking to them – and now that has become the norm with most of our society. Gone are the days of going to the store and picking up, reading, laughing, and sighing in search of a special friend’s birthday card. There’s no handwritten note, no hunting for the address, searching for a stamp to put on it or driving to the nearest mailbox. Now we just go online and select a card in five minutes, send it with greetings and a promise to do lunch soon. Do you even know how much it costs to send a card through the mail today?

When it comes to communicating with your patients, whether in person or through the mail, the emphasis needs to remain on the importance of the person, not their dollars. Anytime a patient walks in the door at your office, a greeting to that person needs to be made, preferably calling them by name. If the administrative staff is unavailable to speak to the entering patient due to conducting business with another patient or being on the phone, eye contact or a wave is appropriate. Acknowledgement is recognition.How are your treatment plans presented – across the counter with the presenter staring at the numbers, or next to the patient at a table with care and understanding? Do you call your patient following treatment – find out how they are doing? Sometimes you may dread this process because you know Mrs. Jones is going to complain about this, that or the other, but it does work wonders in proving to all your patients that you are concerned with their well being. Give it a try.

Today we are all so concerned with saving time that a simple phone call seems to take too much of it. Why should we do that when we can send a text or email and possibly receive a quicker response? All of the electronic technology available to us has taken the human element out of our everyday processes. Have you ever had a message misconstrued because the receiver of the email failed to understand the sarcasm or the tongue in cheek meaning? A friend of mine asked me the other day if I knew of a sarcasm font. Remember that your patients are people. Don’t lose the human touch.

Communication is key to building and maintaining a rapport with your patients. Looking them in the eye, listening – really listening – and constant contact by way of recall reminders, treatment reminders, birthday cards, “thank you for the referral” gift cards, and the all important post op care calls. These are all ideal methods to use in preserving strong patient relationships. Let them know that you appreciate them. As humans, we are wired to connect with others and today we are connect crazy with email, tweets, texts and instant messaging. Your patients have earned the right to be heard.

So think back to when you were six: communicate clearly, literally, and honestly. Make sure that you give your full attention to your patients, and let them know that if you were on the playground, you would pick them to be on your team.

Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen are co-founders of Global Team Solutions, a practice management consulting firm that brings the clinical and administrative teams together through customized practice development and coaching. Their unique hands-on management style assists dental offices to createa profitable, efficient and growing practice. They are the authors of the highly acclaimed book “OMG! Office Manager’s Guide.” You may contact them at: [email protected]