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How to Talk  ‘Business’ Without Talking Business
By Dr. Barry Oulton B.Ch.D, DPDS, MNLP 

2 January, 2019 - Haslemere, England, United Kingdom

Growing your business might seem like an  entirely separate entity to providing excellent clinical care, but the truth is, the key to both is building rapport.

Establishing rapport is one  of the most influencing and impacting skills one can learn. 
It is something that we do  subconsciously every day, yet when we learn how to build rapport on purpose, it results in patients having a greater sense of liking us and our practice. It also increases treatment acceptance and can enable us to handle complaints without escalation.

From a business perspective, rapport is needed at the point of first contact, which is often on the phone. If, during that call (and all subsequent communications) the dental team member involved can match each patient’s terminology, key words, tone and volume, it will create a sense of liking, which invariably results in increasing the likelihood that a new patient will book an appointment. It is important to build rapport with patients throughout the whole of the patient journey because, if not, patients tend to feel that they’re not being heard, or understood, or are not important, and therefore, invariably, less amenable to treatment uptake. The easiest way to build rapport is to be more physically like your patient.
"Rapport building is an essential part of
effective communication, sales and handling
patient concerns"
Physiological Rapport
A connection can be achieved with your patient through matching and mirroring their body language and can be easily achieved from the outset. When a patient enters your practice, welcome them by shaking their hand, matching the pressure of their handshake, while maintaining eye contact, smiling and greeting them with their name.

Matching and mirroring simply means being more like your patient and, for the purposes of building rapport, it doesn’t matter whether you match (if they move their right leg you move your right leg) or mirroring (if they move their right leg you move your left leg). Observing the other person’s posture, for example the angle of their head or their body position, and subtly doing the same, or if they use hand gestures when they talk, you can make similar gestures back at them. The idea is to be similar whilst being subtle.

These integral elements of rapport-building will influence your patient’s mind to think unconsciously that you are like them, which in turn can create a sense of liking. It is human nature for us to like people who are like us, to buy from people we like, and we do not complain about people we like. Thus, rapport building is an essential part of effective communication, sales and handling patient concerns.
Added Value
When two or more people are in rapport, they experience interaction that allows them to communicate at the deepest level. In truth, rapport is the forerunner to effective communication, so learning how to build and maintain rapport is a highly valuable skill. 

If you would like to know more, The Confident Dentist offers a training programme designed for dental professionals to help them improve their interactions with patients and provide a better patient experience.
Rapport: Top Five Tips
  • Have the right mindset; be willing  to match someone else’s behaviour, physiology, words, thought processes, or perhaps even their values or beliefs 
  •  Match their tone and volume, and speed of speech
  •  Be sensorially aware of your patients; if they change tack you need to, too 
  •  Be subtle in your pursuit of rapport 
  •  Undertake some professional training
The Confident Dentist Blog is published by Dr. Barry Oulton of The Confident Dentist


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