As a dental team culture coach, I am constantly talking with practice leaders about how to improve their culture. When reviewing their greatest struggles, one of the most common topics is “How can I get my dental team to communicate better?”
A little over 12 years ago, I was managing a practice in Texas. It was a small practice of one doctor, one assistant, one hygienist, and me. We all got along great and had a mindset of “whatever it takes”. After significant growth, it was time to add another team member. We decided it should be a hygienist. I was very proud of my interview process. I made a list of the top three things I wanted in a new team member, I scoured through countless resumes, started with a phone interview, checked both references and background, invited the candidate for a working interview, and then gathered input from the team about the potential candidate. Pretty robust, right? Wrong. I missed one of the most crucial aspects of adding a new team member…. their communication style. When I hired a new hygienist back then at the office in Texas, the entire culture shifted. We weren’t a smooth operation anymore. It felt like a rocky road. That’s when my quest for learning how to dissect human communication began.
Over the past several years I have studied, obtained multiple human profiling certifications, and spoken to many, many dental groups about human behavior. I’m obsessed with learning why we behave and communicate with each other so differently.
I’m going to share something with you but please be warned…. as soon as I tell you this, you will begin to evaluate every human interaction. Here it goes… people won’t tell you how to communicate effectively with them but they will SHOW you! Yes, the key to understanding how to effectively communicate is to watch a person’s non-verbal cues. If you and your team learn how to identify these cues, they will be able to communicate much better.
If you’ve kept up with articles and videos of mine, you know my favorite behavior profiling system is DISC. DISC is an acronym for the four basic communication styles, Dominant, Interactive, Steady, and Cautious. Every person has a primary communication style and by uncovering it you are essentially uncovering the secret to effective communication with that person. The way you uncover it is by watching a person’s behavior cues.
Let’s examine each style:
Dominant – “D” Style (speaks fast, likes to be in control, very authoritarian)
The dominant communication style is very quick. Dominant styles speak fast, think fast, and act fast. They naturally prefer to take control of others, and have a low tolerance for feelings, “inadequacies”, or prolonged conversations. A dominant style’s behavior cues are very rigid posture, direct eye contact, very militant, squints their eyes critically, and steps away from deep conversation (literally takes a step back). When you recognize these cues, you can adapt your communication style so that the “D” will listen to you instead of wanting to find the nearest exit. “D”s like to be spoken to in bullet point, direct sentences without too much detail or lingering conversation. They don’t need fluff, emotion, or explanation. If this isn’t your natural communication style, you may feel awkward delivering your message in this manner; however, to the “D” it will be a breath of fresh air and you can be assured that the communication was effective.
Interactive (Influence) – “I” Style (very talkative, dreamer, life of the party)
The “I” communication style is very interactive with a lot of emotion. “I”s enjoy personal connection and relational conversations. Before an “I” can effectively communicate with someone, they first must connect emotionally with that person. An “I”s behavior cues are extreme facial expressions, broad hand gestures, they wear their emotions on their sleeve, and have frequent loud outbursts. When you recognize these cues, you can adapt your communication style to make sure you connect emotionally before expecting them to return effective communication. An “I” needs to know how much you care before they care how much you know. You can quickly accomplish this by saying, “Tell me how you’re feeling about this.”
Steady – “S” Style (quiet, calm, enjoys harmony, usually a people pleaser)
The “S” communication style is quiet, calm, and relaxing. Steady communication styles don’t enjoy being the center of attention or speaking up in a group conversation. A harmonious environment is priority to an “S” style communicator and they will do or say whatever it takes to keep the peace, usually sacrificing what they really want or need. An “S” behavior cues are downcast eyes, fidgets when uncomfortable, lacks facial expression, continually nods in agreement, sits in the back of the room, and likes to be a chameleon. When you recognize these cues, you can adapt your communication style to create a calm environment where the “S” style can feel safe to communicate effectively. You can do this by ensuring that conversations are private and have a positive tone at all times. When adapting to an “S”, try speaking quietly and slow your rate of speech.
Conscientiousness – “C” Style (detail-oriented, asks questions, prides themselves on accuracy)
The C communication style is very inquisitive. “C” styles have a strong tendency toward perfectionism. When taken to an extreme, it can result in “analysis paralysis,” delaying their ability to act quickly. If communication with a “C” style is not effective, it will feel like an interrogation of sorts. The behavior cues to recognize in a “C” are hands in their pockets, hands clasped, arms or feet crossed, and they seem “closed off” to others. When you recognize these cues, you can adapt your communication to welcome the ”C” style’s questions. It’s imperative when talking with a “C” that you answer questions accurately without generalized statements. You can do this by asking, “What other questions may I answer for you?” They will communicate effectively once they know that you aren’t annoyed with their need for answers.
To improve team communication there must be three factors present: self-awareness, awareness of non-verbal cues, and the ability to adapt. First, we must identify our own communication style. Second, we must identify other’s communication style through non-verbal cues. Third, we must adapt our own communication style to better connect with others. If you’d like help teaching your team how to communicate better, we can help. Our team communication training will accomplish this and much more. Reach out to us today to learn more, http://www.TeamCultureWorks.com