Listen up! Your future depends on it.

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

Listen up! Your future depends on it.

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We have all been there, the interaction with a harried physician, pharmacist, or grocery store clerk somehow left us feeling empty -a bit less like a person. And it seems like this is happening more and more frequently – that our society’s mutually respectful social fabric is fraying more at the edges by the day.

Naykky Singh Ospina, MD, MS decided to investigate how this trend was influencing the practice of medicine. She and other researchers recorded 112 different doctor-patient interactions and evaluated the quality of the communications and the results were not promising.

The researchers found that the observed doctors only spent 11 seconds on average listening to their patients describe their chief complaint before interrupting them.

11 seconds.

And then only 36% of the doctors followed-up with a response which was intended to help clarify what the patient was trying to tell them.


This likely means that 64% of the doctors were either so clear about their diagnosis after only 11 seconds, that they needed no more input from the patient to make decision, or it means that the doctors had a strong tendency toward confirmation bias, and then projected onto the patient what they thought the patient meant and how they think they felt.

Neither situation causes you to feel very good, does it?

Just like at the grocery store.

Just like at the pharmacy.

Just like your dental practice?

I hope not, because how your patients feel about themselves when they are with you influences everything else:

every interaction,

every decision,

every emotion.

So, are you constantly working on making certain that your patients know they are being heard, or as Daniel Siegel likes to say, “feel felt”? Because it is essential, if you want to prosper in the future as a truly helping professional, and not as just another cog in the dysfunctional medical machine.

Listen, “stay in the question,” as Mary Osborne likes to say, and learn. Listening, gently probing, and allowing the person to establish a narrative about their situation is critical. It causes them to understand themselves better, and it allows us to better understand what it all means to them. Do you truly want to become a health-centered practice? Then it must all begin with clarity and meaning, because motivation emerges out of meaning – meaning to the patient. And without motivation to change, there can be no movement toward sustainable health

Paul A. Henny, DDS

Thought Experiments LLC, ©2018


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