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Working with Difficult Patients- 10

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Difficult Patient #10: The ‘Why’er

Problem:  You walk into the op, sit down, and start your normal chit chat.  You quickly realize this will be no ordinary visit.  Every other word coming out of the patient’s mouth is ‘why’.  Why do they have to fill out all those forms?  Why are they have to take so many x-rays?  Why are you still using mercury when it’s so dangerous.  Why do you have to give them a shot.  Why can’t you numb them another way?  Why, why, why?

Reality:  ‘Why’ers are analytical thinkers.  As a dental professional, you most likely share this similar trait.  ‘Why’ers want information so they can process their environment, prepare themselves for making decisions, calm their emotions, and feel rest assured that they have all the facts.  What is most difficult about ‘why’ers is that they use the word ‘why’ to start questions.  Why questions are the least effective questions to ask but they are also the easiest so people have a tendency to overuse them.  When a question starts with ‘why’ it requires the responder to justify themselves and automatically puts them on the defensive.  It’s unavoidable as it’s the semantic makeup of the word ‘why’.

Solution:  Here are some concrete actions you can take with a ‘Why’er:

  1. Listen to the ‘why’.  When a patient consistently asks questions, especially ‘why’ questions, they are an analytical thinker and is searching for information.  They want facts first and won’t settle for anything less.
  2. Lead with ‘why’.  If you suspect you have a ‘Why’er, then don’t wait until they ask so many ‘why’ questions you feel completely defensive.  Lead with ‘why’ information and beat them to the punch.
  3. Be patient.  If you are running a tight schedule, the ‘Why’er can definitely derail you.  Answering a lot of questions takes time.  There is no rushing it.  The positive is that when a ‘Why’er does have all their information, they turn into a ‘Yes’er.
  4. Make a note.  Know that this patient will want to ask questions at every appointment.  Make a note in the chart that you want an extra 10 minutes with them to avoid the stress of running behind in the future.
  5. Plant the seed.  The team can help by planting a seed during confirmation efforts, “Mrs. ‘Why’er, we are looking forward to your appointment in two weeks. Please bring any change of information with you and of course, Dr. Y is happy to answer any questions you have prepared for her.”

Enjoying the series? Let me know…below.  

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Photo by: Danilo Ruzzuti

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