Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Didn’t My Previous Dentist Tell Me About This?

If you have ever heard that question from a new patient, you have probably wondered about the best response. While it depends on the patient, there are some clear things to do and not do.

Here’s some quick tips…

Any patient who asks this question is coming from one of two places.
1. They are questioning you and whether or not to trust you based on the good relationship they had with their previous dentist.
2. They are surprised and angry at their old dentist.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say it is situation #1. Trust!

Trust in a “low trust” situation comes from understanding, not just from your clinical expertise. That is the first trap. If you immediately respond by justifying your diagnosis or bad-mouthing the other guy, your credibility immediately goes in the dumpster.

Instead, listen to what the patient has to say and make sure he or she knows you understand. It all starts with the questions you ask in response.

For example:
“It sounds like you are surprised at what you found out today. Tell me about that.”

“This was not the news you were expecting when you came in today. Am I right?”

“Based on what we looked and discussed together, what concerns you the most?”

As they continue to express their concerns, continue reflecting back what you hear.

For example:

“It sounds like you are concerned about all the potential damage that has been done when you had no idea this was going on?”

“So you would have done something about this had you known. Am I right?”

“You are wondering why this is coming to light now when you were just at your other dentist six months ago. Is that it?”

When you feedback what the patient is trying to communicate to the point that they know you understand, the dynamic changes. Until you can both agree that you have identified the real concern, there will be no real progress toward a mutual resolution.

So…before you jump in with your well-explained defense of your clinical background and expertise, lend a listening ear. Make sure you understand the real concern AND make sure the patient knows and feels that you understand him or her. Then and only then do you have the green light to proceed with a possible solution.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Four Magic Words

February 14, 2011 marks the 105th birthday of my grandmother “Nana.” While she passed away in the mid 80’s she has been a positive lasting influence in my life. She was and continues to be one of my favorite people.

Here’s why…

As a young man in my early teens, I would ride my bicycle over the Nana’s house about a mile and a half away and spend an afternoon or morning each week mowing her lawn, pulling her weeds and sprucing up the place. Nana had severe arthritis that made it difficult for her to move around much. She was always so grateful for the help and let me know by always having a big plate of cookies and milk waiting for me at her kitchen table when I finished. We would sit together as I ate the cookies and talk about anything: politics, school, sports, or the news. She was a great conversationalist, as the years in age that separated us seemed to evaporate away in the conversation. Before I left, it seemed she would always ask for some help with what were simple tasks to me, but difficult for her like opening a bottle or reaching a box on a shelf. I walked out of Nana’s house an inch or two taller for having been with her.

On Memorial Day as a freshman in high school, the phone rang and my dad hurriedly drove over to her house. He tenderly carried her out of the house in his arms as only a son can that loves and respects his mother and rushed her to the hospital. In just a few short days, she was gone. Days later after I helped carry her casket out of the church at the conclusion of the funeral services and helped place it in the hearse, I stood next to my dad and started to cry. I’ll never forget what he said in that moment. He put his arm around me and said, “It’s OK to cry.” In that moment I realized that I didn’t just miss my grandmother, I missed my friend.

In the years since, I have reflected back on that relationship and wondered, how did an 80+ year-old woman capture the heart of a teenage boy? One of the critical ingredients was simply this: She allowed me to help her. We like the people we help. In fact, a Natural Law states “People like you better when they are helping you than when you are helping them.” Think about it, when someone asks for your help, it is a subtle compliment. They think enough of you and what you have to offer, that they invite you into their life to add something that they can’t do themselves. It is a sign of humility and vulnerability that compels us to like the person we are helping just a little bit more.

The story is told of how Benjamin Franklin befriended a political adversary. Because Franklin knew that the man had an extensive personal library, he sent him a note asking if he could borrow a certain book Franklin was certain that he had. He happily agreed and eagerly cooperated. From that day forward, the relationship changed. The man became more affable toward Ben. They seemed to agree more than disagree all because Ben did one of the most powerful things a person can do…he asked for help.

I love to watch young children because they provide insight into the deep seeded human psychology! Notice, for example, how the face of a child brightens when asked “Would you like to help?” It is a compliment. It is an expression of the value you place on their worth as a person and what they have to offer. It is hard not to like the people who ask us for our help.

So, whether you are working to build a better relationship with a fellow team member, client, family member, or your kids, four of the most powerful words you can utter are “I need your help” or “Could you help me?” The effect is powerful. The impact? Long-lasting.

So, could I have your help as you read this? Go ask someone for his or her help. You’ll be amazed at the response and what it adds to your relationship.