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Part 3 Key Skills Tip #29

Master the Art of Conversation

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Tip 29: Master the Art of Conversation

Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.
- Robin Sharma

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.
- Jason Nathan Miller

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
- Dorothy Nevill

Someone once said, "Business is a conversation." Everything comes down to that face-to-face communication called the conversation. More dentists leave more dentistry on the table because they haven't mastered the art of the conversation. This is something that should not be taken for granted…it is more than small talk and more than just being liked.

Having a meaningful conversation, in many cases, requires us to let our guards down and become vulnerable. It means sharing our philosophy and showing our human side. The conversation is where the human side of health care takes place. Being vulnerable takes courage. As a coach I find that most dentists want to know the secret of presenting the case, but what I find more important than explaining the case is advising them how to have meaningful conversations with their patients. This goes much further than showing beautiful dentistry with great photography.

And the key the meaningful conversations is listening…empathic listening. Many of us sabotage ourselves by talking too much.

It has been said that we can control the conversation through questions. Asking the right questions at the right time can open up any conversation. Of course, asking the right question also implies that we have to sit back and really listen. We were given two ears and one mouth for a very good reason.

When it's your turn to explain dentistry, be careful not to use jargon. Once the patient becomes confused, they have a difficult time making a decision. Always be brief, simple and clear. Use visuals, as I will explain in the next tip. Never forget the purpose of the conversation…to inspire them to move forward with dentistry.

Another tip in the area of conversation is to get out of the tooth arena. Talk about things that are important to the patient. Be likable. Share your philosophy about medical and dental health. Always remember you are speaking to the emotional brain. There is a cliché' that says people buy on emotion and justify on logic.

Covey's fifth habit is to seek to understand rather than seeking to be understood. When a patient feels they have been listened to, they begin to build trust. When they feel they are not being listened to they feel frustrated, upset and possibly angry. Once the emotional ball goes in that direction, there is no turning back. Dentistry is an emotional interaction most of the time. People have fears about pain and money. When a dentist doesn't take into account the emotional component of the dialogue, he or she misses the point.

Another conversation to have is to have a conversation with yourself. I have made a habit of journaling. I have written a daily journal for the last twenty-five years. This is a conversation I have with myself every day. You will be surprised at the power of writing a journal. It will point out areas you can do better, and it will help you to celebrate your successes. The journal will also help you to explain dentistry better to yourself, and eventually to your patients. Words are really all you have, so use them properly.

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