How do you react when patients object to treatment recommendations?
It’s tempting to assume they need convincing, then ‘talk up’ the hi-tech ‘proof’. Or try to motivate them with warnings about how bad things will get if they don’t follow through with their dental plan. But until you really listen, you won’t understand their objections, or how to gain compliance.
Listening enables you to find out about your patients’ reality…what’s important to them, what motivates them, what issues prevent them from moving forward. Once you understand that, you are in a better position to educate, clarify, and gain trust with your patients. In turn, they are more likely to choose to have more dentistry done with you. Even as a psychologist with 25 years of practice, I am still amazed by the power of listening to change and influence decisions. Yet listening is the hardest thing for a human to do.
- Listening is more than just being quiet. To listen means putting aside your own endless internal monologue. Suspending your own opinions and constant critiques. Unlike ‘hearing’, ‘listening’ requires full attention to imagine the person’s point of view. Help yourself to be more focused by reducing environmental distractions. Turn off your cell phone. Eliminate interruptions as much as possible. Talk in a quiet area or room. And as you schedule patients, build in time so you won’t feel rushed and impatient to listen.
- Refrain from interrupting. Let the other person finish speaking before asserting your own view. Even if you think you know the issue, curb your tendency to interrupt. If this is a problem for you, pay attention to when interruptions occur most often. Notice whether there is a pattern and identify what you will do to improve your patience.
- Look interested. You can say a lot without words. Show attentiveness. Maintain eye contact without staring. Relax your face and jaw, drop your shoulders. Let the patient know you follow their thinking with an occasional nod. Smile when appropriate. Sit (rather than stand) at the same height as the patient. Lean forward slightly.
- Listen for main thoughts. Effective listening goes beyond the words and facts the speaker communicates, especially if there are emotions involved. Create rapport by using reflective statements such as, ‘I can tell you’re worried’ or ‘This feels overwhelming to you’.
- Encourage the patient to keep talking. Before you respond to objections, make sure your understanding is accurate. Ask open-ended, clarifying questions. Paraphrase or summarize the main points then ask for verification.
Listening to patients lets them know you care. It builds trust and strengthens your relationship. Set a goal to listen twice as much as you talk. Then keep track of the amount of treatment recommended and compare it to the amount of treatment accepted. I guarantee that you will listen your way to higher case acceptance.
Dr. Haller can be reached at email@example.com. Dr. Haller provides Executive Coaching for McKenzie Management and conducts one-on-one leadership training.
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