Everyone has a story. When was the last time you paid attention….really paid attention…to the people around you, and wondered what their stories are? I think we have all had the experience of being rushed, preoccupied, lost in our own thoughts and worlds as we push through the busy-ness of our day? How many people come into our view or contact and how often do we take the time to listen and hear their stories? The dental practice is what I call a “whitewater” environment where everything is happening in double time and there is always a lot going on. We say our priority is optimal care and patient experience, but do they necessarily mean the same thing?
My brother told me yesterday that last week that he went to get his haircut. He went to a drop in salon so he didn’t know the woman who cut his hair. As many hairdressers do, the woman kept a stream of conversation going as she clipped. Only this time, it was very one-sided and quite negative. She complained about her son, moaned about how her husband never helped around the house, groaned and whinged about her dog and then filled him in on the unfairness of her job and how she disliked her boss. My brother sat and listened to this, thankful that a hair cut only took 20 minutes. He remained silent and left as soon as he could. This story would be bad enough of its own accord. This is the kicker….my brother had just lost his wife and the love of his life that week to cancer. This was one of the few things he had done for himself in 2 months, after caring for his wife so that she could die at home.
People, I implore you. Shut up and listen. Stop and listen. We all have a story. We may not tell it, but we still have it. Try something a little different….look at each patient in the chair, every person you meet, as though they are a book with a story inside. Share yours if asked and if you think that people want to hear it. Mostly, be curious about their story. Ask questions and be interested and then LISTEN. Sometimes being silently mindful is the best way to make a connection with the people who cross your path. When care excellence is paired with listening, patients will feel heard and acknowledged and that goes a long way toward a good patient experience.