The Not-So-Magic ‘Magic Words’

  • by Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA, BSc, MSc, DDS, FAGD, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA
  • Jul 6, 2017, 15:12 PM

His name was Horst Krull. He was a master craftsman and proud of his work. He was the head of the dental lab as part of the faculty of dentistry at University of Toronto. He and his team took the work of our inexperienced hands and created prosthetics, both fixed and removable, with a level of fit and precision that was truly inspiring and a model of what we should aspire to always have in private practice.

But his role was more than just making prosthetics. He also taught us how to communicate with our dental labs, and his first lesson to me had a profound impact that continues to this day, more than 30 years after graduation.

In my third year of dental school, in my first lab submission, I was careful in ensuring I had all the technical details of my request written on the lab clearly. I handed it to Mr. Krull, and he looked at it, gave it back to me, smiled and said it was good but was missing something important. I looked, and I did not see what I had left out. After a quiet few moments, he smiled again and said that I forgot to put “please” at the top and “thank you” at the bottom of my written request. He said, “We must always remember that we are dealing with real people who take great pride in their work, too.”

It was one of those “slap your forehead” moments of clarity. It was so obvious. I thanked him for reminding me of this. Ever since, on every single lab form I have ever written, I always say “please” at the beginning and “thank you” at the end. And I have taught my team to do the same thing in all their communications with the lab, dental supplier and anyone else whom we do business with.

Just last week, I was talking with the owner of a dental lab in Las Vegas, and he told me that I stand out in his lab because I am always saying “please” and “thank you.” They all joke it is because I am Canadian. I was happy to hear it and surprised that this would be noticeable.

Our parents call them the “magic words.” Using them is so simple, so easy to do, yet as adults, it’s easy to stop doing this. Why?

No matter what is happening in my life, every single day when I arrive at work, I say, “Good morning.” (Or, “Good afternoon,” when I start at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays.) When the team leaves, I not only say, “Good night,” but I also add, “Thank you for your work today.” The power of appreciation goes far beyond what we expect in surprisingly positive ways.

Many years ago, I took it one step further. I realized early that my practice location and hours are not particularly convenient given that it is close to downtown location and its hours are primarily daytime only. I have not been open nights or weekends in more than 23 years. Yet my practice is busy with people traveling from all over the city and beyond to see me and my team for their oral health care. Now, at the end of their appointments, before I leave the operatory, I say to my patients, “Thank you for taking the time to come and allowing us to treat you today.” That simple statement surprises and delights them and has resulted in a strong, loyal patient base. We truly appreciate the effort our patients make in coming to our office, and those simple words of appreciation are like magic.

As Mr. Krull so astutely pointed out to me, dentistry is not just working on teeth. The teeth are attached to real people; the team of people who work for us are real humans; and the dental laboratory technicians, suppliers, couriers, mail delivers, cleaners and more are all real people, too. They all work so that our efforts can be successful for the betterment of the health of our patients and the opportunity to have successful, rewarding careers.

These magic words are not really magical. Success is all about building and maintaining relationships. Saying “please and “thank you,” liberally, will enhance your success in surprising ways.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts.

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