Your emotional connection with a patient can make or break a practice.
You can tell the patient in your chair is frightened. She tenses up when you ask her to open her mouth and grimaces before you even touch her teeth or gums. Her mouth is in pretty bad shape, and when you mention something about tartar, she starts to cry. Somehow, you have to care for this patient, prepare her to meet the dentist, and educate her about at-home and in-office treatment plans. But how can you reach someone who’s so frightened? To truly serve your patients and improve their health, you have to learn to connect with them on an emotional level.
Emotion is key
In a clinical setting, people put a lot of work into being calm and rational. You can’t recoil in horror from a mouth that’s in terrible shape or react in anger when a patient hasn’t cared for his restorations. You’ll have difficult patients who insult or annoy you, and you have to remain professional in all situations. Reason lets you assess the situation and give the patient in your chair the best of all possible treatments.
Reason and detachment can be good tools in stressful situations, but they’re also dangerous. If you focus too much on being detached, you risk becoming some sort of Spock-like character who angers patients by seeming like a robot. As a hygienist, you represent the practice to the patient. The dentist comes in for a few moments, chats and leaves, but you’re with the patients for their entire appointment, from the moment they come back to the bay until the moment they leave.
You are the person who determines whether a patient leaves feeling supported and loved or embarrassed and dejected. Your emotional connection with your patients can make or break your practice. You can’t afford to be too clinical and detached. You need to develop the emotional skills that let your empathize and connect with your patients so that you can set them at ease, educate them and help them heal.
Building connections with patients
You’ve probably met hygienists who seem to connect effortlessly with the patients in their chair, no matter who they are. They can calm fears, elicit a smile or two and get even the most nervous patient chatting. Somehow, these connection superstars help even the most resistant patients accept education, commit to better oral health and plan treatments. What are they doing that makes them so relatable? Is it something you can learn, or is it just a natural ability?
The ability to connect with people relates to your emotional intelligence (EQ). And the good news is that your EQ can improve with training and practice. One key for EQ in a professional situation is that it’s less about emoting than about listening well, and it’s less about persuading someone than about accompanying them on their journey. Hygienists with high EQ meet their patients where they’re at. How do they do this? High EQ hygienists:
To learn more about EQ, get your free download of the EQ section of Vicki McManus’ book, “Frustrations; The Breakfast of Champions,” at www.productivedentist.com/eq.
To find out more about the Productive Dentist Academy, check them out here.