The art of running a successful dental business owes a great deal to effective communication. Without it, mistakes, errors and confusion can reign. This is true both inside a practice in communicating with staff, or externally when dealing with patients, laboratories or with dentists sending referrals.

Communication is the transmission of information from one person to another, involving a message being coded by the sender and decoded by the receiver. The art is in the delivery, and miscommunication can easily occur leaving the writer surprised and saddened to learn how their virtuous intent had been wholly ‘lost in translation’.

The root of this lies in the fact that most human communication is non-verbal. The words we use represent only 7% of the message, then the tone of voice 38%. Body language alone accounts for a staggering 55%. Emails, now used more frequently than ever, can certainly fall foul of this as all information being passed on is reliant purely on words.

art of communication

The industry is a busy one, time is precious and people regularly skim-read, often overlooking words of instruction. With this in mind, it is interesting to consider just how much dental communication relies solely on the written word and misses out on over 90% of the other aspects that humans need for effective communication.

A measured tone of voice

When it comes to tone, it may be more useful to view this as “formality”. Sometimes expectations are set by the medium you use. For example, a dental practice is a professional environment, so a degree of formality is to be expected. A letter has a set structure and grammar here is important, whereas a text message lacks almost all of this.

Even within the same medium, tone can be different depending on the capacity in which you are communicating. When speaking as a business, companies tend to stay more formal, even on social media, but the individual, may adopt a more relaxed style.

art of communication table

How can we make it better?

A simple way of improving communication is to put the person back into it physically, so speaking to people face-to-face whenever possible. However, this is often not practical, and body language and tone aren’t an option when you’re not even there!

Listening is just as vital as speaking in the art of communication and requires significant effort to be effective. The listener’s attitudes affect what is perceived therefore we must be open to the sender. Don’t interrupt and try to hear what is actually being said rather than taking your own interpretation.

The environment in which your messages are seen strongly influences the way they are understood. When it comes to dentistry consider what the public areas of your business are saying to your customers. Are they clean and professional? Here think inside and out, even down to the finer details such as weeds in the car park; consider the message this conveys to patients! Are the public areas helping to sell your business, e.g. the display of leaflets and posters on treatments?

Finally, can your staff confidently talk to some degree about treatment or solutions you offer? Are all of your staff able to support your business aims through the art of communication?

 More than words can say

When it comes to the written word, you may be able to add more depth of meaning with images or videos through social media or even Emojis in text messages – after all, this is why they were invented. Whatever you do, make sure you think about how your patients receive your messages as this is likely to improve communication. Put yourself in their shoes to see how you would decode the messages they are receiving from you.

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