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“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” – George Bernard Shaw

Consistency – modern culture longs for this; things change too fast; consistency = comfort; give patients the same experience every time they are in the office, keep repeating your message

Attitude – statistics for the effectiveness of spoken communication

55% = facial expression (body language)

38% = the way the words are said (tone)

7% = words

Studies show that listeners generally attend first to the visual and then to the vocal elements of a message, finally focusing on the meaning of the words themselves.

Learning Styles

Visual – learn through seeing

Auditory – learn through hearing

Kinesthetic – learn through touching, doing, moving

Behavior Styles   (personality types)

Analytical (Thinker)

Driver (Director)

Amiable (Relater)

Expressive (Socializer)

The four behavior styles are based on two dimensions of behavior:

Indirectness versus Directness

Supporting versus Controlling

Communication skills are just that – skills.  They are teachable, learnable behaviors.

  • First impression – 30 second rule
  • Use the other persons name
  • “I” messages – less threatening
  • Listen – at least as much as you talk
  • Silence – don’t be afraid to use pauses


What result do you desire from the communication?

(Begin with the end in mind.   S. Covey — 7 Habits)

The effectiveness of communication can be measured by the response it gets.

Effectiveness means getting the response we want.

  • What is your objective, what do you want to happen?  Be specific.
  • What response is necessary or desired?  What action should the person take?
  • Why should someone respond?  Value for them?  WIIFM
  • What message content will motivate them to act?
  • How will you present that content?
  • How often will you have to repeat the message?


If you want to persuade me to do something, your communication should focus on me and my response.  And to get a response from me, you’ll have to address the issue in my terms, not your terms.

Avoid the word “not”.  Negative talk encourages arguments, counter attacks, etc.

A smile (or least a pleasant expression) encourages open communication.

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed — having their routine or environment or comfort level changed.

The first principle of effective communication is to get appropriate feedback.

The second principle of effective communication is to really connect with the other person(s).

  • Just sending out information isn’t an act of communication
  • Communication is a two-way process.  Are you trying to inform, persuade, shock, praise, criticize, shame, please, inspire, ……………..?


The third principle of effective communication is to listen and understand first.

The fourth principle of effective communication is to understand that communication is more than the surface meaning of words.

The fifth principle is respect.

  • You gain cooperation if the other person(s) know you respect them.


Reasons for leaving (non-repeat customers — patients)

  • 1 percent died
  • 3 percent moved
  • 5 percent said friendships
  • 9 percent said competition
  • 14 percent were dissatisfied with the product
  • 68 percent cited an attitude of indifference by employees



Staff to Staff

  • Input from each team member – How to confront?  Post for everyone to see
  • Never talk negatively about another team member
  • Resolve conflicts sooner rather than later
  • Always better to talk to someone rather than about someone
  • Rarely turns out positively when someone finds out you’ve been talking about them (and they nearly always find out)
  • Don’t listen to and don’t participate in gossip or bashing. Remember – If someone will talk to you about someone else, they will also talk about you to someone else.
  • Say “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re welcome” more often


Doctor to Staff

  • Doctor sets the office tone/mood.
  • Never criticize or reprimand in front of a patient
  • Don’t belittle or make fun of — not even jokingly
  • If you can’t truthfully make the statement “Jane is the finest hygienist I’ve ever worked with”, either provide the necessary training or replace them so that you can make that statement.
  • When a staff member comes to you with a question, avoid saying “Let me think about it” or “I’ll let you know later”.
  • Say “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re welcome” more often


Staff to Doctor

  • Know when to approach
  • Know how to approach
  • If you don’t know — ASK!
  • If you bring a problem, bring at least one possible solution.
  • If you have a problem with an attitude or behavior of another person in the office, be sure you have attempted to resolve it face-to-face with that person before coming to the doctor.  Doctors response should usually be “Have you spoken directly with _____________ about this?
  • Say “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re welcome” more often


Doctor to Patient

  • Be careful about using “dentalese”
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Ask questions
  • Get “in step” with the patient
  • Meet the patient’s perceived needs first
  • Build trust (relationship) with every patient and they will be more likely to complete their treatment plan and refer others to the practice
  • Say “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re welcome” more often


Staff to Patient

  • Never complain about or be critical of the office, doctor, or another team member in front of a patient.  Doing this should result in you being immediately fired.
  • Say “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re welcome” more often
  • On the telephone 1. focus on making the appointment; friendly and helpful tone 2. when confirming an appointment and leaving a message, always request a return call by saying “I would appreciate the courtesy of a return call”. 3. if talking to the patient about money, be firm but fair and maintain a friendly tone, even if the patient gets nasty
  • Front Desk – patient arriving 1. greet the patient in a friendly way – call them by name 2. notify them if the clinical staff is behind schedule (running late) 3. be sure to get the paperwork completed and/or updated
  • Operatory 1. focus conversation mostly on dentistry 2. personal conversation should be patient focused – not about you 3. constantly build up (promote) the doctor and/or the practice
  • Front Desk – patient departing 1. ask for the money for today’s visit 2. make the next appointment 3. appointments for other family members 4. referrals 5. say “thank-you”



  • Sales process is based on communication
  • If you’re presenting someone a solution to their problem, you’re not selling, you’re providing a service.
  • We’re never selling if what we present is relevant.  We’re servicing.
  • Selling isn’t something you do to someone.  It’s something you do for and with someone.
  • Selling is an exchange of value.
  • Selling = leading someone to “Yes” (Nothing happens until the pt. says “Yes”)
  • Benefits outsell features
  • Create a sense urgency without scaring the patient or sounding “preachy” – find and focus on the patient’s “hot buttons”
  • You should listen people into buying rather than talk people into buying. Listening builds trust. Listen intently. Don’t interrupt the person speaking


Acronym = LACE

L = listen (most important aspect of communication)

A = ask questions (learn what is most important to the patient)

C = confirm understanding (be on the same page)

E = educate (your capabilities; expected results)

Why People Buy

  • Fully 84% of sales in America take place as the result of word-of-mouth advertising.  Some of the most important sales promotion activities are those that take place between customers and prospects, between friends and colleagues, in the form of advice and recommendations on what to buy, or not buy, and who to buy from.


Persuasive Communication

  • Sometimes we fall into the habit of saying things the same way we’ve said them for years.
  • Possibility that we may put another person on the defensive or create a negative image of our business and ourselves


Six common phrases and habits that you can avoid or alter in order to become more persuasive.

  1. “To be honest with you………” Why do people feel the need to announce their honesty?  Does this mean that they’re lying otherwise? Alternatively – Omit the honesty phrase and get to the point.  Or consider replacing the word “honest” with the word “candid”.
  2. “What I want to talk about is ………………” People don’t care what you want you want, especially if you are trying to persuade them.  They only care about what they want.  Tie your comments to what will benefit the other person. Alternatively – “So that we can find out how to best (keep you from hurting in the future; make your smile more attractive; save you money; help you keep your teeth for a lifetime) let’s discuss …………………”. Appeal to the patient’s concerns.
  3. Negative language. Persuasive speakers communicate by using positive language, rather than negative. “We don’t have an appointment time open until next Thursday.” Alternatively – “We can see you for that ____________ as early as next Thursday.” (Pet Peeve) “No Problem” or “Not a Problem” Actually 2 negatives. Alternatively – “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure” or “We can do that” or “Absolutely”
  4. “So what you’re saying is ………………….”. An effort to be sure you’ve understood the other person, that you’re on the same page. Alternatively – Turn the statement into a question, “Am I correct to understand your (concerns, ideas, reasons, fears, points, etc.) to be ………………?”
  5. “What you have to do is ……………………….”. Barking orders is not beneficial to persuasion.  Who are you to tell me what I have to do?  Puts people on the defensive.  This phrase usually precedes “how-to” information. Alternatively – “You’ll get (the best result; the best value; the most comfort; the longest use of; etc.) if you’ll ……………………”
  6. “I don’t know how much you know about (topic) but ……………………” A huge assumption – can be insulting. Three things can happen – two are negative.
    • Speaker talks over your head and wastes your time.  He comes off as a know-it-all who can’t relate to you.
    • He tells you stuff you already know and wastes your time.  He possibly insults your intelligence and might come off as condescending.
    • By random happenstance or plain luck, he appeals to your level of knowledge and drives home his point.
    • Ask, “How much do you know about (topic)?”
    • Be quiet and listen
    • Speak to their appropriate level of expertise or knowledge
  7. Alternatively:


Like most things, becoming a more effective communicator requires effort.  Challenge yourself to be a little better each day.  Confide your desire to improve to the people you spend the most time with every day and ask them for feedback.  As I stated in the introduction, I have a desire to improve my communication skills.  I’ve already started finding resources and reading.  I’ll be sharing what I discover over the next few months so stay tuned.