Trojan Today Classic : “To Give Is To Gain” – By Phyllis Waite

The Phyllis Waite column “To Give Is to Gain” ran in Trojan Today from August 2009 through August 2010. This week’s classic was the first installment of a year’s worth of many great insights.


To Give is to Gain, Phyllis Waite August 2009

Effective communication means you develop patient relationships that sustain and grow your practice. Subtle (or not so subtle) resistance sets in when patients hear “what the Doctor wants to do” or “what the patient SHOULD do.” Assertive patients may become challenging while passive personalities may avoid confrontation and make an appointment without a true commitment to treatment.

Patients expect their dental team to be truthful and not withhold observation about their conditions regardless of their financial situation. (Insurance is part of the financial arrangement.) When the dental team learns to GIVE THE GIFT of using terms that respect patient CHOICES, relationships build and WIN/WIN results occur. (How do you feel when patients don’t show for confirmed appointments? Patients who respect and trust you care about maintaining good relations. They return your calls and are genuinely apologetic if they forget a confirmed appointment!) CHOICES: a word that works.

Patient says: “I can only do what insurance pays so I hope Doctor doesn’t find anything.” You say, “Mrs. Lim, nothing is bothering you now so you have CHOICES as to when you want to treat what you and Doctor may discover. If there is a concern about finances, we have several options for you to CHOOSE from. If there is anything you want to treat before the condition becomes more advanced, our treatment consultant is very knowledgeable and can help you plan desired treatment over time that supports your needs. Of course you know the sooner you have treatment, the less costly it will be. We respect your CHOICES and understand you may have other priorities.” SHOULD: a word to avoid

Adults and children react to being told what they should do. SHOULD is the antithesis of free will. Shift a negative into a positive by using “recommend.” For example, say “What I RECOMMEND” instead of “What you SHOULD do” or “What the Doctor wants to do,” leading patients to discuss treatment plan choices and minimizing challenges to the diagnosis. As patients discover the cost and ask “Is there any other way this can be done?,” you have set yourself up to support the diagnosis by saying “Mrs. Lim, if there were any treatment that would be as healthy and long-lasting, I can promise Dr. Kharing would have given you the CHOICE. I RECOMMEND a plan, over time, to recover your dental health and also take care of your preventive hygiene along the way. How does that sound?”


Phyllis Waite is a Management/Leadership Coach committed to building successful dental practices. FMI visit her website.