June Book Review: How to use power listening to understand and treat your patients

dentalproductsreport.com-2012-06-01, Issue 6

DPR editors have compiled a list of must-read books with your dental practice's management goals in mind. The concepts and ideas conveyed through each book can easily translate into your dental practice, among your staff and even your patients.

DPR editors have compiled a list of must-read books with your dental practice's management goals in mind. The concepts and ideas conveyed through each book can easily translate into your dental practice, among your staff and even your patients.

Linda Steeves is a HygieneFusion consultant, coach and mentor. Steeves works as a clinical hygienist and also assists dental offices and dental hygienists to achieve a higher potential.

Power Listening has been slated as a business source for developing and refining our listening skills which will, in turn, transform the organizational culture in a business. This culture will ultimately increase productivity, profitability and satisfaction. Ferrari systematically lays out a direction and action plan for power listening. Listening is likely the most powerful tool at our disposal in work and life. The goal of power listening is asking the right questions, remaining quiet so that you can listen carefully to the answers and being able to move from discussion to action.

Power listening skills can be learned, practiced and improved. First and foremost, you must skillfully learn to be quiet. The author believes in the 80/20 rule, which is applicable to many facets in life. He feels you need to be quiet 80% of the time and listen, so that you can gather information. Learning to be quiet is not an easy task, but to acquire the information we need to move ahead or acquire consensus, it is imperative. At times most of us are so eager to move the conversation forward, that we start interrupting. He suggests that when we feel the need to speak or interrupt, we should instead pose questions.


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To truly listen, we need to become the “Master of Questions." This mastery involves using questions to reframe the conversation to learn more and challenge our assumptions. Examples may include, “How do we know that? Why do we think that? Can we prove that?” With questions, we gain knowledge and information. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard business professor, stated “the most important skill to practice is questioning and questioning is the first pre requisite for good listening." We should never stop asking why and why not.

Formulating in our minds the organizational structure of a dental practice, it is obvious how acquiring power listening skills, not only by the dentist/owner but also by involved team members, will catapult the drive, profitability and understanding of the business. This will open doors to creativity and problem solving by including and listening to ideas. The business will profit from the enhancement and inclusion of ideas and the patients will profit from a cohesive team that understands their concerns. I humbly suggest the dental office team start practicing these listening skills that are so methodically mapped out in this book. Ferrari did state that you should practice one step at a time in power listening and then practice over and over again.

Consider now, once power listening skills have been put in place, and continually practiced, the enormous impact this will have on treatment consultations, treatment acceptance and patient trust.  Our enhanced power listening skills will increase our patient’s ability to make positive judgments and decisions regarding their oral health. Imagine a new found referral base and your office has become known as one who really listens to their patients concerns. Upon reading, and re- reading this book, a step by step framework has been structured for you. You may perhaps call it, Power Listening 101.

In our communications, we reveal something about who we are, how we think, what we feel and what we think is important. To consider a dental environment that encourages those communications, not only from a staff perspective but a patient perspective, will certainly set your practice well above the curve in business potential, caring and understanding. As you read Ferrari’s book, you will understand his Monday To-Do-List: 

1. Keep quiet. 2. Challenge assumptions. 3. Focus on what you need to know. 4. Increase your tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. 5. Sort incoming information to remember.  6. Work your memory to gain insight. 7 Know when to pull the trigger to move from debate to action. As you work on this to-do list for listening skills, your communication throughout your work and home life will become more profound.

So, why not try it? Challenge yourself and your team to enhance the quality of your work environment, the quality of your communication with your patients and ultimately improve the quality of your patient’s health.  Power Listening by Bernard T. Ferrari will give you some ground lessons.