Anyone Getting a Fair Hearing in Your Practice?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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The whir of the instruments, the ringing telephone, the chatter of staff and patients, the din of the dental practice can become something you just learn to tune out. Unfortunately, you may also be tuning out some of the most important “noise” in your office, the comments, conversations, and discussions among your team and your patients.
Sure, we’ve all been told to listen carefully, don’t interrupt, pay attention to what’s being said. But in the busyness of the dental practice, there’s simply so much to get done that taking the time to really listen is something we like to think we’re doing but often aren’t.
Most likely you’ve been a part of many “conversations” in which you’re busy telling your story only to have the other person jump in the second you pause to take a breath and seize control of the conversation with an account of something similar that happened to them, or to give you an unsolicited “solution” to your “problem.” Chances are also very good that you’ve committed the exact same offense.
Today, real listening is in scarce supply, a casualty of a culture that is perpetually on the run. Seldom do we stop to carefully consider what the other person is actually saying, ponder their situation, or really evaluate their concerns. We’ve substituted listening with “sprint hearing.” We hear the first few sentences of a conversation and think that we have all the information we need to sprint to the finish and leap in with a response.
At the first barely audible pause, we spill out all our knowledge on the subject, sure that we will blow the other person away with how quickly we were able to get to the crux of their issue and offer a solution. We’ve heard what we wanted to hear or expected to hear, but not necessarily what was really said.
How good a listener are you, really? Pick a day next week and try out the following listening tips. What you discover may surprise you.
- Shut up. You simply have to control your urge to speak until the other person is finished.
- Don’t think about how you are going to respond while the other person is speaking or you’ll miss important information that may prompt a completely different response than the one you’re rehearsing in your head.
- Look at the other person when they are speaking. Don’t straighten your desk, arrange the instruments, wipe down the counters, or anything else that distracts you or appears to distract you from what the other person is saying. Your eyes should be on the person speaking to you unless you’re looking down to take careful notes of what they are saying.
- Watch your body language. If you look away, raise your finger to make a point, glance at the door, peek at your watch, the other person will notice and feel you are not engaged in what they are telling you.
- Ask questions before you give answers. Make sure you fully understand what you’re being told. Seek clarification. Paraphrase what you believe you’ve heard, particularly if the person is upset or irritated. This helps the speaker feel you are truly listening to what they have to say.
- Stick to the subject at hand. If Mrs. Jones is telling you that her tooth started hurting during her son’s high school soccer match last weekend, resist the urge to chime in and ask her how the team did. Otherwise the topic can quickly get off track as Mrs. Jones digresses into talking about what a great match it was and may not remember or have the opportunity to convey important information about her symptoms.
- Separate your personal situation from the discussion. If you’re tired, not feeling well, upset about something else that is going on in the office or your personal life, it’s very easy to be distracted and not fully engaged in the conversation. Looking the person in the eye and note taking can be very useful tools in forcing you to be fully present in the moment.
Pay attention to how well you’re actually listening to others – your team, your colleagues, and especially your patients. Chances are that up until now, you haven’t heard the full story.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at email@example.com.
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