The Simple Way To Avoid Conversational Confusion

Have you ever been in a discussion or a conversation with someone only to find out that you were talking about different things when you thought you were talking about one simple common issue?

And when you both realise, or one of you realises that you have both indeed been talking on different planes about different topics that, if the conversation continued, could have had dire implications, well, isn’t that the worst feeling ever?

I’ve seen this sort of thing happen socially, and in family discussions, but it can also be very disappointing when it occurs in the dental practice.

One reason why we end up with two different conversations being had simultaneously on tangential planes is simply this:

Neither person in the conversation stops for a moment to check in.

Simply, at all times during communication, we must remember this principle:

The message received may not be the message that we sent.

This is because the message that is received is INTERPRETED and therefore may well be received and acted upon based on the VALUES and KNOWLEDGE BASE of the person receiving.

And those values of the receiver may be at odds with the values of the speaker.

This is what happens when someone says something that they think is funny but the receiver does not see the humour.

I remember a friend telling me how a waitress had once asked her how long she and her husband had been married, and my friend jokingly replied:

“Well, it’s been that long that if I’d have killed him, I’d be out and have done my time by now.”

The waitress returned a few minutes later to say:

“I know you didn’t mean anything with your comment, but I just wanted to let you know that my sister was murdered by her partner, and so sometimes jokes like that aren’t always funny.”

My friend said she never told a joke like that ever again….

What one person thinks is “just their sense of humour” is not always appreciated by those who are subject to these people’s insensitivity and stupidity.

So, that being said, during conversations it is very important to check regularly with comments such as:

“Is this making sense?”

“Don’t you agree?”

“What do you think?”

“Do you have any questions?” 

“Is that what you were expecting?”

“Do you have any comments so far?”

Checking in regularly with the person you are speaking with helps to avoid faux pas and also helps to prevent getting too far off track during important discussions.

It is very important to make sure that during discussion we check regularly that we have consensus and agreement between parties to ensure that unwanted confusion is kept to a minimum [if not actually eliminated].

Clarity is what is needed.

When we fail to ensure clarity we end up with confusion.

Recently I listened to a dental phone conversation between a caller and a dental front office person. The caller was enquiring about having their teeth straightened.

Having straight teeth is a result.

The caller was enquiring about a RESULT.

What the dental front office person did was to launch in to a discussion about the process of straightening teeth. Well, actually, she spoke about ALL OF THE MANY WAYS that this practice could use to straighten teeth.

The caller had not asked about PROCESS.

So one person was wanting to obtain a result, while the other person only wanted to talk about the various processes….

The dental front office person never asked the caller about WHEN they were wanting to get their teeth straightened by [did they have a date in mind], or when they were looking to get started [as soon as possible, or some time soon?].

The dental front office person never asked the caller whether she had any level of knowledge about the processes of straightening teeth.

The caller was never asked whether any of her friends or family had had their teeth straightened.

The caller was never asked why she had chosen to call this practice, or who had referred her to call this practice.

And sadly, the caller was not asked their name, and whether they were already a patient of this practice or not.

The resulting conversation was more A LECTURE TO A STRANGER rather than being a conversation between a person in need and a person wanting to help and being able to help.

And thus we ended up with confusion and also embarrassment when the caller and the dental front office person realised the conversation was not solving the caller’s problems.

As a dental professional, don’t let your agenda railroad a conversation in a direction that it should not be going.

The end of every dental conversation should result in clarity for the caller or the dental patient.

All they want is to know what to do next. This is simply their CLEAR. NEXT. STEP.

When we think about the patient’s CLEAR. NEXT. STEP. and we guide our conversations towards creating crystal clear clarity for our patients, it is only then that we will find that we truly become valued as health care professionals.

We want to be known as problem solvers and people who care.


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