Do you know how to communicate effectively?

Knowing how to communicate effectively can make all the difference in the dental office.

How comfortable are you working in a dental practice where you’re forced to interact with patients? You might think “That’s a silly question,” but is it?

There are some people who are incredibly nervous or just plain uncomfortable talking to irate patients. For instance, you may have inadvertently caused them pain when working on their mouths. On the other hand, some of you may feel guilty about a different kind of pain: the wallet pains. What can you do? This is a business and you must cover the bills. My question to you is how comfortable are you with your communication skills?

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True story: I grew up painfully shy. It wasn’t until high school that I became more confident with who I am and the ability to speak up. I may have overcompensated as I got older, but that happens even to the best of us. I found Toastmasters International to be a life-changing organization. No, I am not a spokesperson for this organization nor am I being compensated for referencing them. I just found that improving my ability to communicate had a life-changing impact on both my professional and personal lives. Are you wondering what this has to do with the dental world? For those of you uncomfortable with patients who get distressed, how you handle stressful situations is critical.

Let me tell you a little about Toastmasters International. It’s an organization that develops leaders as well as helps people improve their confidence and overcome challenges related to the fear of public speaking. It can help you to improve the way you speak to patients as well as your boss. Sometimes the dynamics of a dental practice make it very difficult for you to be “heard.” Perhaps there are personality conflicts in the practice among staff, or maybe the boss is someone who’s more of a dictator than someone you would ever want to approach with new ideas or a problem. My belief is that how confident one is makes a major impact on how one is treated. Wouldn’t you want to learn how to de-escalate a patient? Or find a resolution to a problem in the practice? Or be able to get a raise by having the confidence to ask for one?

Let’s shift gears for a minute. There are other ways to improve your communication skills. For example, go on and watch TED Talks. You’ll find inspirational speeches that may motivate you to look differently at how you live your life. After you watch a speech, go back and watch it again, this time looking at the style in which the speech was given. Watch first for content and second for style. My belief is that good communicators are lifelong learners. They’re open to new ideas and they challenge themselves so that they can grow.

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Another idea is to volunteer to be involved in community theater, or you can take a dance class or music lesson. Go out on the street with a guitar and put yourself in front of other people. Volunteer to read a book at your child’s daycare; it isn’t just kids who need to get comfortable talking in public. Whether you decide to volunteer or introduce yourself to a stranger, these actions all add up to building one’s confidence.

If you want a raise or you want to solve a problem, how you communicate is critical. The challenge is to look around your life and see where you can improve your communication skills. My guess is that if you act now, you’ll see results in the near future.

If you want to share your thoughts about communication skills with hostile patients, email me at