The Best Way To Address Your Patients When Speaking With Them

The other week my wife and I dined at a local restaurant for lunch where we were taken aback by the waitress and the familiarity that she assumed when talking with us and checking in on us throughout our visit there.

What do I mean?

“How are you guys going?”

“Would you guys like any cracked pepper at all?”

To me, the term “You guys” is too familiar and too soon.

Frankly, I detest its use, and feel that it needs to be banished.



How should we address our patients?

My rule at the Dental practice was to address all customers with courtesy and respect until instructed by the customer to use less formal salutations.

And that should be the same anywhere else really.

When a patient arrived for their first visit, our front office team always addressed them by their title [Mr. or Mrs.] and by their last name until told by the patient to call them something else.

It’s simple common courtesy.

This formal means of greeting each patient was also particular to each patient and to each team member.

And there was to be no familiarity taken here until permission was given by the patient.

By this I mean that there were patients who allowed me to call them by their first names but preferred my younger team members to address them as Mr. Brown or as Mrs. Jones.

Familiarity was never assumed.

It was only taken once the patient had granted permission.

When we spoke about a patient to another team member, be the conversation one between dentist and hygienist or dental assistant and front office person, the patient was always spoken of as “Mr. Jones” or “Mrs. Brown”

Our aim was to demonstrate maximum respect for our valued customer.

By over-denominating, rather than assuming familiarity, we maintained the bar of respect at a very healthy position.

Whenever familiarity is falsely assumed, the bar of respect is lowered and can never regain its original earned position.

Assumed familiarity can in this way be an unwanted relationship killer.

“G’day, mate.”

As much as I am an Australian, I dislike the use of the word “mate”.

I find its use in conversation to be at best presumptive and at worst an expression of downright laziness to cover up the speaker’s failure to remember the name of the person with whom they are speaking.

When someone calls me “mate” it is not a title I have requested from them so I believe an assumption of laziness has crept into our relationship rather than a comfortable familiarity.

Put simply:

Your patients will appreciate and respect your politeness in calling them by their proper names until granted permission to be more familiar.

It’s common sense, really.


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