Are You Speaking With One Hundred Percent Clarity?

If you want people to act in a certain way, you need to give them clear instructions.

If your instructions are not precise, then there is the opportunity of variance created, and with variance comes confusion.

A person very close to me is a golfer. His golf club holds an annual match-play knock out event. This event is a prestigious club event, with the winner’s name being listed on an honour board in the clubhouse.

This year the format for the event was changed.

In previous years members could nominate to participate, and members organised to play and complete their matches by certain dates. When the matches were played was up to the members involved.

This year the captain organised a qualifying event, where the top sixteen players on a certain day qualified and then matches were to be played on certain dates.

Earlier this month my friend received an email from his golf club secretary, that read:

 

“Hi everyone,                      

Please find attached the official seeded draw for the Singles Matchplay event. Any questions please refer to member Joe Blogs [at his email]who is kindly overseeing this event.

Good luck!

[Secretary’s Name]”

 

Missing from this email was the date that the event was to be played.

The secretary’s email had included an attachment which was an image of the draw for the event on the computer, but my friend’s name had been spelt incorrectly in the draw, making it difficult for him to locate the draw on the club’s computer.

So my friend replied, simply asking what day the match was to be played.

 

“Hi [Secretary’s Name]

What day is this being played?

I’d look it up but my name has been spelt incorrectly… thanks

I will be there.

[Signed: My friend]”

 

Here is the reply my friend received from the secretary:

 

“[Friend’s first name],

It clearly states in my email to refer any questions to Joe.

  1. The dates have been published in the last the golf club website.
  2. I did not do the draw or enter the names on the time sheet.
  3. Your name is misspelt on the time sheet which seems to point to the staff member in the Pro Shop that entered the names.

But to answer your question, it’s the 19th.

Regards

[The Secretary’s name]”

 

Here is the reply that my friend should have received:

“Dear [My friend’s name],

It clearly states in my email to refer any questions to Joe.

  1. The dates have been published in the last the golf club website.
  2. I did not do the draw or enter the names on the time sheet.
  3. Your name is misspelt on the time sheet which seems to point to the staff member in the Pro Shop that entered the names.

But to answer your question, it’s the 19th.

Good luck in your match. Play well.

Regards

[The Secretary’s name]”

 

There was no need for the secretary to reply with anything other than the date.

Everything else on the email that the secretary sent was unnecessary, and simply reflected that the secretary was having a bad day.

How does this apply to dental?

Another good friend of mine says that the way people respond to our communications is a direct reflection on the clarity of those communications that we send. My friend says that if our communications result in an outcome that we were not wanting, then we should not be disappointed in the behaviour of the recipient, rather we should reflect that our initial communications have been lacking in clarity.

And I have found this to be a wonderful thought to reflect upon, and a good edict to live by.

In dentistry, it is up to us, as health care professionals to provide clear and precise communications to our patients and to our staff as to what exactly is to be done, when exactly it is to be done, and what exactly will be the consequences if it is not done at the time it is meant to be done.

The key word is “EXACTLY”.

As dentists, it is difficult to get patients to take medications, brush and floss regularly, and not consume harmful foods, and the use of specific unambiguous language is of paramount importance in conveying exactly what we mean.

When we fail to include vital information in our message we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

We should never assume that the recipient of our message has access to vital information we may have forgotten to include.

And we should always consider whether the information that we include [or should have included] will provide complete clarity as to the purpose and result of our communication.

In the email sequence my friend received from his golf club [above], my friend would not have needed to reply with a question if the date of play had been included in the secretary’s first email, and if his name had been spelt correctly on the Golf Club Website for the draw of play for that day.

It was probably less than appropriate for the secretary to redirect blame to my friend [for not referring to previous emails] and to the pro shop staff [for poor data entry].

In dental practices I have heard staff members say to customers:

“We need to check the warranty with our lab”

“That’s not in my pay-cheque”

“I passed your message on to him”

It may not be our fault, but the problem is still our problem, and we to make it  right QUICKLY for our customer.

We want the customer to remember how seamlessly and easily we were able to make things right, and forget how things went array.

That’s easy to do.

But it’s also very easy NOT TO DO.

And that’s what separates great businesses from their competition.

It’s their ability to do the little things way better….

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Email me at david@theupe.com