A number of years ago I attended a presentation by Suzanne Boswell and I experienced an epiphany.1 Her presentation was on personality styles.2-4 The presentation not only overviewed the four basic personality styles or types, but also involved the audience doing an exercise which ultimately gave us an insight into our own basic personality type. Then the epiphany part. She related our personality type to a preference for either receiving or giving out information and suggested that a dental teams approach with their patients would be enhanced by respecting patient personality type and thereby preference for communication. In no way did she infer that dental teams were to be insincere. Quite the opposite was in fact emphasized. Suzanne Boswell was firm on the concept that every patient receives the same information except that presentation was to be tailored to the personality type. In this way the patient is more likely to hear what was being said and be more responsive. We do not want to insult our patients.
Figure 1 shows the four basic personality types (analytical, driver, expressive, amiable) and they are arranged with the thinkers/controllers (analytical, driver) on top while the feel/responsives (expressive, amiable) are on the bottom.1-4 Also note that the tellers (driver, expressive) are to the right while the askers (analytical, amiable) are to the left. We all have these four basic personality traits (analytical, driver, expressive, amiable) but we will be predominant in one of the corners. I, for example, check out as mainly an expressive. I love to talk, I am futuristic, the whole world is my friend, and the glass is always half full.
What is important about this simplistic layout is that we interact easiest with the patients that are closest to our traits and style. In my case, expressives are a piece of cake while I can easily adapt to the amiables (need reassurance, thoughtful, detailed explanations) and the drivers (quick decisions, want the information fast and concise). It is the personality type diagonally across from your personality type that will give you the most grief. With me it is the analyticals (thinkers, want time and all the facts for decision making) that I use to have all the problems with. Since analyticals want the facts so that they can leave and call our office on their terms, I would be so busy talking my head off about the facts and peripheral topics that I would annoy the dickens out of my poor patient. Needless to say, my case acceptance rate with these individuals was abysmal. I did not appreciate or respect who I was dealing with. Today I, along with dental team members, now guesstimate a profile on all our patients so that we can best educate and service their needs in a non-manipulative manner that is consistent with our practice model, team ethics, and our individual personality types.
Another important tool that I employ with team members to help assess who we are dealing with is the commitment/ activity table that I learned from Sandy Roth (Figure 2).5
This table identifies patient desirability. We all want committed, active patients, don’t we? On this particular table those are the 2’s with 2a being a more frequent client (possibly a periodontal/prosthetic maintenance patient) whereas a 2c is still a fabulous patient but seen in the practice a little less frequently (possibly an out of town patient). On the other hand we all have 0’s, don’t we! These are the patients that rarely attend and if and when they do it is usually for long overdue recare appointments or emergency care. Somewhere in-between these two extremes lies the grey area of the semi-committed patient. You know the type. These individuals have one foot in the practice and one foot out. This is a potentially scary relationship and situation to initiate any oral care with, especially that which is comprehensive in nature.
Where the table in Figure 2 has helped my dental team and I out is we spend the most time with the individuals that want to spend the most time with us and we clarify our relationships with those individuals that are uncertain or unclear of our services. This does not mean that we treat our patients differently. Au contre. We just adjust the amount of time and the comprehensiveness level of treatment to suit the patient’s commitment/activity level. Most importantly, we would never begin comprehensive oral rehabilitative care, for example, with anyone who is not on the same page as us. Comprehensive care requires a committed, loyal patient who enjoys coming to your office and who is on your side.
Who are you dealing with? A committed active patient who you respect, understand, and want to help achieve the dentistry that they understand to be the best for them with today’s technology and protocols. And they feel the same way too about your team.
Further Suggested Reading and References:
- Boswell S. The mystery patient’s guide to gaining and retaining patients. Tulsa: Pennwell Pub; 1997.
- Racich MJ. The basic rules of oral rehabilitation. Markham: Palmeri Publishing; 2010.
- Racich MJ. The basic rules of facially generated treatment planning. Markham: Palmeri Publishing; 2013.
- Racich MJ. The basic rules of being a dental patient. Markham: Palmeri Publishing; 2016.
- Roth SR. firstname.lastname@example.org