Quick Bite: Excuse Me, I’m Talking Here! by Jen Butler, MEd, CPC, BCC

Don’t fall into the trap of settling for less than optimal communication. There are ways to learn communication techniques around common issues that better the team, increase patient care and make the work environment pleasurable for everyone. To be versatile in communication, try the following:
  • Be mindful of body language. Crossed arms, looking away, pace of speech and tone of voice offer some insight as to intention and meaning of a message.
  • Ask questions first. If you want to know what someone means by his or her remarks, body language or tone, ask. So not to offend, start your questions with, “I’m curious…” or “What do you mean by…”
  • Don’t be offended by “why.” The word why as a question requires a person to justify. Asking for clarification is never a bad idea.

How Do You Deal with Passive aggressive Co-workers?

Here are a few tips on handling pesky, passive-aggressiveness.
  • Stay calm. Before you respond, take a deep breath, tell yourself to relax and think about what you want out of the conversation.
  • Stick to facts. Focus on facts, not feelings. Facts include all of those elements of a situation that are trackable, observable and measurable.
  • Resist temptation. Don’t mirror poor communication habits. Instead smile, show empathy, ask questions and state what you want and what you don’t.

How Do You Deal with Gossip?

Gossip is a bad habit that can be highly destructive to dental teams. Nip it in the bud.
  • Refuse to be drawn in. If a team member begins to gossip, immediately excuse yourself from the situation. Even listening validates the gossiper’s behavior.
  • Confront the gossiper. Often people don’t realize what they’re doing is gossip, so it’s important to let them know.
  • Deal with the issue, not the person. When you approach your co-worker, be sure to make it about the behavior and not about the person.

How Do You Approach Someone with a Concern?

There are going to be issues that come up. That’s normal for people working together. Address it early so you can keep it small and manageable.
  • Think it through. Ask yourself: Why is this a concern? Why bring it up now? What do you want to happen or not happen? How does this impact the team or patients?
  • Set parameters. The most productive conversations are ones with parameters. Stay on track and don’t hesitate to enforce boundaries.
  • Resolve one at a time. Discuss and find solutions to one concern at a time.

How Do You Settle a Conflict?

Some would be surprised to hear that conflict is extremely healthy in any kind of relationship. Our relationships actually deepen as a result of conflict, if handled correctly.
  • Name the problem. What we often think is the problem is actually not. The problem is typically a bit deeper. When you fix the right problem, everything else falls into place.
  • Acknowledge personal contributions. Before approaching someone to settle any conflict, be sure you know what role you’ve played in it.
  • Know what you want. Looking to resolve conflict without a clear direction of what your ideal outcome is wastes precious office time.

How Do You Work with a Friend?

As much as it can be great to work with people you’re close to, there are cautionary lines to remember.
  • Set boundaries. Clear, defined boundaries are necessary for friends to work well together.
  • Hang with others. When at work, associate with other co-workers more than each other.
  • Stay professional. How you act, treat, communicate and partner with other teammates is the same consideration you show your friend.

How Do You Work with Someone You Don’t Like?

It’s normal to have varying levels of like and dislike with the people you work with.
  • Know why. When you know why, you can do something about it. Not doing something about it isn’t an option.
  • Consider the whole person. Teams are most successful when they can articulate everyone’s strengths and navigate everyone’s weaknesses.
  • Move on. If there is someone who really pushes your buttons, find a way to get over it. It’s not for you to fix him or her or help the person change.


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