What you believe and developing rapport

Nov. 1, 1998
Two simple and yet profound concepts are central to having and enjoying a successful practice. The concepts are identifying beliefs and establishing rapport.

These two cornerstones define a dental practice.

Gregory C. Gibson

Two simple and yet profound concepts are central to having and enjoying a successful practice. The concepts are identifying beliefs and establishing rapport.

One of the most fundamental and often least understood determinants of human interactions is beliefs. What is a belief? How do we get our beliefs? The purpose of this article is to provide you with an understanding as to the nature and power of your beliefs.

Beliefs are defined as feelings of certainty, and they fall into the domain of generalizations we have about our world. Beliefs give people a sense of cohesiveness about their worlds. Beliefs provide a sense of navigation through our day-to-day affairs. Beliefs greatly influence our actions, as well as our inaction. Statements such as the following are verbalizations of beliefs that can trap us or lead us to more success:

- "I am not good at those things."

- "I will never learn how to do that."

- "I am a learning machine."

- "The road to success is always under construction."

The diagram appearing with this article will help you to understand how beliefs impact us. Let`s assume that you don`t believe you are good at something. How much of your "potential" are you going to tap? Probably very little. Now, move to the next box. How many of your possible actions are you going to tap? Probably even less. Then go on to the results box. What type of results are you going to get? Probably a very small result. When you move to the beliefs box, your belief about not being good at something is reinforced. You probably say something like, "See, I knew I wasn`t good at that."

Now, let`s try it the other way. What if you adopted a belief that you are good at something. How much more of your potential will you tap? How much greater will your actions be? How much better will your results be? And then, what is the positive effect on your beliefs.

Here are the three most powerful beliefs encountered in a dental practice: belief in yourself, beliefs about other people, and beliefs about products or services. These three sets of beliefs are critical in a "sales" interaction, which is defined as any interaction with two or more people. You always are selling - whether it is your choice of a movie to go watch, the menu for dinner, or a treatment plan.

The readers who want to get the most from this article will stop now and take 10 to 15 minutes to write down their beliefs in the three areas mentioned above.

Let`s examine what you came up with. What beliefs do you have about yourself? Do you believe that you are capable, qualified, and have the best in mind for your patients and for your team (staff)? Or do you believe that you have to settle for less than your best effort because of money issues? Do you believe that all interactions are an opportunity for growth for those involved? Do you believe it is better to share with your patients what they truly need, or is it better just to tell them what they want to hear?

What beliefs do you have about other people? Do you believe that your patients want the best service possible? Do you believe that they are willing to spend that little extra to get your best - your best in effort and best in materials? Do you believe that they see you as an authority in their oral health or just view your practice as another place where they have to spend money?

What beliefs do you have about your services? Do you believe your treatment is the result of your best effort? Or do you believe that you are restricted because of the financial concerns of your patients (real or imagined) or what insurance companies dictate? Do you believe that your team is an essential part of how you do business? Do you believe in the value of your hygiene department and rely upon the hygienist(s)` expertise? Do you believe that each patient you treat is an extension of your pride in providing the best and finest dentistry available?

What are some of the strongest and most compelling reasons to get in touch with your beliefs? Beliefs are precursors in the action that leads to producing the results you want. As you have seen in the "Belief Boxes" diagram, beliefs determine how much of our potential and action we tap into as we pursue the results we want. The results we produce then effect our belief structure, which has a profound effect on our future attempts at producing results. They become what many call a "reference" for our future attempts. Phrases such as, "See, I knew I wasn`t any good at this," or "It`s always like this; why bother?" are what I call "negative" references - that is, they will negatively influence our future attempts. Examples of positive references would be phrases such as, "I am getting better at this," "Wow, I really surprised myself," or even, "Look at what you get when you apply yourself."

Some of the most empowering beliefs that I have heard from dentists and their teams are:

- Prevention is the foundation of our practice.

- My patients want and demand my best and finest work.

- People can keep their teeth for a lifetime.

- Every experience provides an opportunity for learning and growth.

- I approach my patients with confidence and pride.

For every "negative" experience, there is the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. What are your beliefs? I think it is worth the time to discover how much they will propel you towards getting and having all that you want.


The second important cornerstone to a successful dental practice is the ability to establish rapport instantly and effortlessly with all of your patients. I define rapport as "that air of responsiveness that exists amongst individuals." I view rapport as the conduit that allows for an easy exchange of connection and information. In the technologies I teach and use every day, several simple approaches establish rapid and profound rapport. First, we need to look at the components of communication, learning to use these components to create rapport.

Communication consists of three important components:

- The words we use.

- The tonality we use.

- Body language, or what I like to call "physiology."

Let`s examine all of these components. The words a person uses in his/her communication are concerned with "common experiences" and "key words." The discussion of common experiences are shared with people who have had similiar experiences. For example, talking about skiing with an avid skier is a quick and easy way to establish rapport. Listening for and finding common experiences to share with another person is a quick and easy way to establish rapport.

The three types of key words that people use are visual, auditory, and feeling words. Some examples of visual words are see, look, appears, clear, foggy, and bright. Examples of auditory words are hear, listen, sounds, sonic, be heard, rings a bell, and silence. Examples of feeling words arefeel, touch, tap into, hard, handle, and heated.

With tonality, we are concerned with the vocal aspects of a person`s verbal communication. Examples of tonality are:

- Tempo - the rate of speech (fast, slow).

- Volume - how loudly or how softly a person speaks.

- Timbre - the resonance quality of the speech.

With body communication or physiology, we want to discern how people use their bodies when communicating. Areas to look for are:

- Posture - sitting, standing, leaning forward, leaning backward, or leaning to one side.

- Gestures - pointing, one hand, or both hands.

- Movements - rocking, tilting the head, crossing legs, crossing arms, standing on one leg, etc.

People who like each other are like each other! Please go back and read that again. Some of you might say, "But opposites attract." Maybe, but for how long? To deliberately create rapport, we need to join another person`s experience. Creating rapport is very easy; just do exactly what the other person does with his/her communication. It really is that simple!

So what should you match? Start by listening and commenting about experiences you have in common. Very importantly, you should discern what types of words (visual, auditory, feeling) they are using to present the experience to you and then you should use the same type of words when you speak to them. This is very easy to do over the phone. This is very powerful and is one of the quickest ways to establish rapport. In the same way, listen to and match tonality, tempo, and volume. In terms of physiology, sit like they sit, lean like they lean, gesture like they do, cross the same leg that they do, and cross your arms like they do.

All of this is very easy to do, and it will assist you in creating a deep and lasting sense of rapport with your patients. Here is a simple way to get good at using this method for creating rapport. During a team meeting, get everyone involved by pairing up partners and role-play ing establishing rapport. Have one partner tell a story and the other partner try the various techniques to establish rapport. This gives you some experience in a non-threatening environment.You also should take part in this exercise.

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