What you say matters, especially if you are talking to dental patients. If you want to understand how qualifying language can undermine your diagnosis and call to action, consider the following two examples.
Example 1: “John, your back tooth has a cavity, and I recommend that you schedule for a crown. I suggest scheduling in the next few weeks.”
Example 2: “John, your back tooth has a little decay and you probably need a crown. But don’t be too alarmed. Maybe you can keep a crown in mind for the future.”
The first example uses language that is clear and concise. When delivered with empathy, the message will guide patients to schedule for recommended treatment.
By contrast, the second example uses the qualifiers little, probably, and maybe in addition to the qualifying phrase “but don’t be too alarmed.” The patient in the second example will likely not understand that his tooth really needs a crown and that the dentist was trying to soften the news with qualifiers.
Too many times dentists and their teams insert qualifiers that unfortunately undermine the importance of their care. Common qualifiers include may, could, some, few, just, and probably. Qualifiers are often used to help soften a diagnosis or to make patients feel more comfortable, but unfortunately qualifiers have the unintended consequence of removing the value of what is recommended. Qualifiers also create doubt and confusion.
Communicating with empathy and having a warm chair-side presence will make patients feel much more comfortable than qualifying language. Therefore, when you need to communicate your diagnosis and guide patients to schedule for recommended treatment, remember to use clear language that builds value.