James Anderson

Mishaps and Miscommunication

“I WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOUR WIFE!” “I WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOUR WIFE!” This is hardly what my friend was trying to say, but with his extremely limited knowledge of the Navajo language, this is the phrase that unfortunately flew out of his mouth as he walked to down a busy street in New Mexico. By good fortune, a man recognized that he had no idea what he was saying and stopped him kindly asking him, in English, to stop saying what he was saying. Confused, my friend asked him “why, what is so wrong with saying hello?”
SAYING HELLO??? How did my friend get from saying “hello” to “I want to sleep with your wife?” Those are two very different things. It turns out that tone of voice and volume made all the difference in my friends awful attempt at communication.
Miscommunication doesn’t only happen when people try to speak a second language, it happens all the time between people that speak the same native language. And as i’m sure you know, it happens all to often in dentists offices as well. Successful methods of communication among back office staff and front office staff can be what set great dental practices apart from the average practices. Here are a few simple ways to improve communication within your practice:
Set and Share Goals
Only you know how you want your practice to function. When you set out to provide the best dental care, you had a vision of how your office would look, function, bill, and treat patients. If you want your employees and partners to share the same passion you have for your practice, show them your vision. Describe to them, in detail, what you expect from each individual employee. If your employees have a clear vision of what is expected from them, they are more likely to live up to your expectations, and in turn, help fulfill your dream.
In-House Training
This falls along the same lines as sharing your goal but it involves greater detail. After you’ve discussed your expectations and goals with your employees, you can now provide them with a roadmap of how to achieve those goals. In-house training is different than re-teaching your employees what they already learned in school. Instead, it’s a training solely focused on how you want your practice run. It gets into the nitty-gritty details of how the things should work in the office, like how phones should be answered and of course,  how the all-important “handoff” procedure should work.Providing newly hired employees and current employees detailed, office-specific procedural training will create a standard that can be easily maintained and observed. By setting an office standard that includes effective communication, mishaps, disruptions, and accidents will decrease.
Standardize Written Communication
The yellow sticky note is for appointment reminders. The blue sticky note is for everything else right? No, wrong. If your still using sticky notes to communicate with your staff or patients, it’s time to throw them all out and pick a new method of communication. There are multiple cloud-based management tools that allow for far greater communication than sticky notes, text messages, and even emails. Some of the benefits of cloud-based management tools are security and sustainability: no more shredding paper or emptying recycle bins.The most important benefit however, is improved communication among staff through message prioritization and unification.
George Bernard Shaw once said “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” In other words, don’t be afraid to over communicate. You have an idea of how you want your practice to work – it’s up to you to express that idea to your employees.


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