Emotional intelligence is how you process your life experiences and how you get along with others. It’s how you react, in terms of emotion, to the world around you.
Being emotionally intelligent means being intentional in how you act and react. When learning how to communicate with your team, you must work on being intentional in your leadership and management of the team. A blanket statement will often go well with some but offend others on the team. Sometimes you need to try a different delivery method for different team members.
- How behavioral assessments can create a less stressful dental practice
- How patients' social styles can impact treatment acceptance
- Communication with peace of mind, part 1
There are five skills that make up emotional intelligence. They all must be learned, but the best method is additive, with the skill of self-awareness coming first. You cannot appreciate knowing others without first knowing yourself and how to regulate your own emotions.
These five skills are:
- Social skills
The first skill you need to master is knowing yourself—becoming self-reflective or mindful. This is often difficult in day-to-day dental practice because you need to have time to reflect on how you think and feel about situations. Dentistry can be repetitious and require split-second decisions. Being mindful and self-reflective is not always intuitive in the rapid pace of a dental practice. This is the most important skill because all the others build on it.
Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, was an important first read to give me a basic understanding of how to become more mature emotionally. The information in the book not only applies to dentistry, but also to one’s everyday interactions with friends and family. It’s possible to become intentional in your actions rather than reacting to your environment. Emotions can cause you to react before thinking through a situation, which often amounts to irrational behavior.1
Self-regulation has to do with managing your emotions. Your goal should be to have the most appropriate, or preferred, response to any situation. Emotions come from the instinctive part of the brain. The limbic system elicits an immediate response, including “fight or flight.” You have to learn to read your emotions, sort through the possible choices and consequences, and then interpret how to best react to end up with the best possible outcome.
Once we learn how to react to our own emotions, we can apply the same skill set to others. You may be intuitive, but the best way to know others is to take a proven personality inventory, such as DiSC, by John Wiley & Sons. This tool is quick, accurate, and inexpensive. It analyzes your personality and guides you in your interaction with four different behavioral styles:2
- Dominance: Action-oriented, direct, and strong-willed
- Influence: Like to be the center of attention and want to be liked
- Steadiness: Gentle, peaceful, accommodating, but do not like change
- Conscientiousness: Analytical, focused on detail and accuracy
After completing a DiSC assessment, you’ll receive reports that tell you not only how each team member prefers to be approached, but also how your personality type best interacts with each team member. The key to good communication is to approach each team member according to their preferences, not according to your own personality.
If a Dominant boss approaches a Steadiness team member with force, there is often conflict. A Steadiness does not like change; they like routine. Multiply this by five or 10 employees. Statistics show that there is an even, 25% split of personality types, so you may have several of each type. You cannot get maximum results if you treat everyone the same. You will need to spend time customizing your approach to management.
Social skills are an additive skill, building on the first three. Catching someone doing something well and praising them is a great social skill. Thanking your individual team members often is a great skill.
An office will not run smoothly without clear expectations of each person and a clear outline of job responsibilities. This can be done with respect and kindness, while still making it clear that employees are expected to perform at a high level and in a self-directed way. Each task needs to be assigned to someone specifically responsible for completing it.
Do you and your team have a passion for dentistry? Are you dedicated to excellent patient care? Do you take pride in your work? As the leader of your team, do you take the lead in motivating the team? Part of your job as a leader is to determine if your team is motivated, and if not, to correct it. A shepherd is a great picture of a leader, being out in front of the herd, and the sheep willingly follow the strong leader.
How you communicate with your team will be a big factor in overall morale and productivity.
Three tips for improved communication with your team are:3
Learn about your personality and the personalities of everyone on your team.
Learn to manage your personality and your team’s personality traits. Best results will come from approaching them individually, according to their own individual traits.
Set clear expectations, evaluate often, hold people accountable for their responsibilities, and use these discussions as a way to motivate the team to be exceptional.
Working on the skills of listening, being reflective, and learning how we act and react is a good start. With these skills, you can understand your team, how they learn, and how they react to the stresses of daily dental practice. Each skill will build on the next and result in higher emotional intelligence. I firmly believe that increasing your relationship skills and communication skills is a big step toward making your life and practice more rewarding.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the June 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.
1. Goleman D. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Random House Publishing Group; 2005.
2. Scullard M, Baum D. Everything DiSC Manual. Wiley; 2015.
3. Black DE. Dental EQ: How Improving Your Emotional Intelligence Impacts Your Dental Practice. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2017.