What is emotional intelligence and how it does it affect a dental practice?

March 2, 2016
David Black
David Black
David Black

Drawing on over 40 years of clinical experience, Dr. Black focuses on speaking and coaching through in-office consultation. Dr. Black has Pankey-Dawson clinical training and has retained staff an average of 20 years each. He has distilled the wisdom of major national consulting firms into a successful restorative and cosmetic practice in a small suburban town. Dr. Black brings these qualities and more to help both new doctors and associateships needing to increase their productivity by attention to systems. He has proven leadership and administrative skill, and is a dental leader in the local society and MOM’s projects, community boards, and state dental board of directors, committees and task forces.

Executives can have excellent schooling and their IQ is out the roof, but something separates those who have stellar careers and those who end up working for the stars.

Is there reason some clinically skilled dentists just don’t quite make it financially? What is the difference between two doctors who sat beside each other for four years in dental school? Some are experts in their diagnosis and treatment, but seem to struggle with the ability to convince patients they need comprehensive work.

The same holds true in all businesses. Executives can have excellent schooling and their IQ is out the roof, but something separates those who have stellar careers and those who end up working for the stars.

In the early 1980s, there was a concept born that EQ was equally important as IQ. Daniel Goleman wrote a book, “ Emotional Intelligence,” that theorized that knowing one’s own emotions, emotional self-control, motivation and persistence, recognizing emotions of others and successfully handling relationship, were characteristics that affected a person’s success as much as IQ.

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In the 1970s, Dr. Bob Barkley, wrote about “co-diagnosis,” talking about forming a relationship with your patients, gaining their trust, and together, coming to a mutual decision about what was the best dental solution for their long-term dental health.

As I attended seminars by Dr. Peter Dawson and then the continuum at LD Pankey Institute, there was the part of the balance called “Know Your Patient.”

I have attended numerous practice management seminars and had leading consulting firms come to my office to teach me about treatment presentation, new patient experiences, and the business systems that will help me become more productive. I have also studied DiSC personality styles and generational differences and the way I need to approach patients so that I can gain their trust and they accept treatment.

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I think there is a very strong correlation with a person’s EQ and their ability to successfully “co-diagnose.” If we look at some of those qualities in a person, I think we can see why some people thrive and some don’t.

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Recognizing your own emotions

Can I detect when I am upset and what it is that upsets me? If I don’t recognize that I am upset, I can project that to my patient. If I have had a poor interaction with someone, do I carry that over to the next person I see? Do I get nervous presenting a big case? Does that show? Self-identifying what affects me is essential to maximum performance.

Emotional self-control

How do I react? Do I get upset when someone rejects my treatment plan? What about that “favorite” patient who sets off the whole office? Can I control how I react to negative stimuli? You can instantly lose a patient with one slip of the tongue, a sideways glance, or with some physical signal that you do not approve.

Motivation and persistence

Do you have a drive to be excellent? Will you keep after a project until you achieve your goals? What is your motivation? What is the answer to “why” you are a dentist? Your “why” is more important that the “what.” High goals and ideals are a big driver to success.

Successfully handling relationships

This is a complicated mix of skills and attitudes that will lead to success or failure, a high-level performance or mediocrity.

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Over the years, research has developed insights into these and other qualities that can be measured by instruments to show your strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that, unlike IQ which you pretty much are stuck with what you are born with, you can improve your EQ with study and training. This process has been going on in industry for some time. In dentistry, there has been indirect reference to these skills without specifically discussing the individual skills and how to improve them.

Other tools to use in your interactions have to do with personality styles. If you self-identify your own tendencies and preferences in interactions with others, you will first understand how you prefer to act. If you add to that some skills in identifying other’s tendencies and preferences, you will see how to approach them when discussing treatment or problems they face.

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It is important to know that people may not respond to how YOU would like to be approached in solving THEIR problem. Seventy-five percent of people are different from your style. They have a way that they like to be approached, and this may be in conflict with your usual way of doing things.

Several times, I hired consultants to help me improve my practice and my ability to get treatment acceptance. They would introduce the concept, and track whether we improved, but never really show us how to improve, other than just encouraging us to “just do it.”

We now have training and testing and coaching to actually facilitate dentists and team members to identify these traits and skill, and to learn new skills to improve all aspects of our interaction and relationships with our patients, our team members, and even our families.

Find a coach or consultant that can facilitate DiSC and EQ, so that you can identify how you like to approach others and how to improve your emotional intelligence.