“Communication is the key to any relationship.” This is the mantra of marriage counselors and relationship coaches – and for good reason. It’s absolutely true. As a dentist mentor, it has become my mantra, as well. All relationships, including those with your patients and with your team, are built on good communication. However, developing communication skills can be difficult. It’s not as if dental schools offer courses on the subject. Below, you’ll find four secrets to help you improve your communication skills and your relationships – not only at work but in your personal life as well.
1. Communication Is about Listening
The word communication comes from the Latin word communicatio, which means “sharing.” Sharing is not simply about telling others your ideas; it’s a mutual exchange. The first step towards becoming a great communicator is to step back and let others share. How do your team members feel that the practice could improve? What is your patient’s ultimate goal for dental treatment? What does your spouse really think about the maxillofacial diagram you keep prominently displayed in the bathroom? Once you know how others feel and where the problems lie, then you can engage in the other part of communication, which is sharing your own ideas.
2. Great Communicators Know Who They Are
To share your ideas, you have to know what they are. To do that, you have to have a good notion of who you are as a person. Can you identify your personal and professional goals, both for the short and long-term? When you are upset, can you name the source of the tension, or do you just feel vaguely irritated? Working through these issues will help you communicate your needs and feelings to others. Journaling can be a great help. Begin each morning by writing two to three pages. Don’t plan it ahead. Rather, let the words come out in a stream of consciousness. You will be amazed at the issues, feelings, and goals that arise. Often, these will be things that you had no idea were in your mind.
3. It’s OK to Ask for Help
Just as communication is a sharing of ideas, learning how to communicate can be a mutual exchange as well. If you still have trouble identifying your goals and sources of tension, consider working with a therapist and/or dental coach. A therapist can help you work through issues in your past. He or she can also assist you in sorting through the feelings that, like many, you keep bottled up inside. Once you have worked through past issues, you will be ready to look to the future. A dental coach will help you set personal and professional goals, and he can guide you as you establish a plan to reach these objectives. He can also help you in the day-to-day act of communication, providing tips for how to deal with specific situations or individuals.
4. Good Communicators Share Their New Skills with Others
Once you have learned how to communicate, it’s time to bring the process full circle. When you communicate your new skills to your team and others, your life will become more efficient and stress-free. Consider enrolling your staff in communication courses. Make your newfound skills the standard by which you run meetings, Growth Conferences, and the like. Tell your staff about things you’ve learned from your dental coach and personal experience. Share the secrets of great communicators. It turns out they should not be kept secret after all.