Effective Communication Skills

Evaluate inter-team communication activities


Introduction to communication skills

Considerate and consistent communications not only make the practice more efficient but they create respectful, productive workplace relationships. Reception is the communication hub of the practice. Communication procedures and protocols relating to reception should be agreed and written down to ensure each person knows exactly what is expected.


Basic communication skills

Communication is a two-way process through which information is passed from sender to the receiver. Communication is an activity, which takes place between two or more parties, the sender and receiver(s). Each person has an equally important, necessary and complementary role. Below outlines how this process happens. If any one of the stages is unsuccessful, the whole process will fail.



Provides information

or asks questions


Hears and acknowledges the

Sender’s message


Knows the message

has been received


Sending communications

Preferred methods of communication will vary from practice to practice, depending on the size and layout of the practice. Computers are increasingly used for internal workplace communications and for communicating with patients, e.g., you will have methods in place for informing the surgeries when a patient arrives. Protocols for communication within your team will require skilful use of verbal and non-verbal methods of communication.


Formal non-verbal, written communication

Notes, memos, posters, adverts.


Informal non-verbal (80% of all communication falls into this category)

This is all to do with body language: posture, gesture of hands, facial expressions, how you sit, stand and move, eye contact and general appearance (clothes, etc).


Body language

Words are a small part of communication. While you are saying words, your body speaks volumes. Does your body language help or hinder the message that you want to express? 


Sometimes what we say with words does not match what we communicate in body language. Try to be aware of any mismatch in your verbal and non-verbal communication, as this leads to confusion, misunderstanding and disputes. It can help to talk openly about your feelings. If you are expressing your thoughts in an adult manner, this can strengthen your position.



Hold yourself in an upright and well-balanced manner. Do not slouch or stand off balance. This makes you appear vulnerable.



Be aware of your personal space and do not let others invade it uninvited. Ideally, sit or stand directly in front of the other person. If there is a height difference, make sure it is to your advantage.



Eye contact is the most powerful non-verbal communication method.  Aim for steady relaxed contact.  Avoid intrusive stares or a shifting gaze.


Mouth and jaw

A clenched jaw communicates tension or aggression, so too does false or fixed grins.



Pitch and tone can provide a lot of information about how you are really feeling. Make sure that you are behaving with consistency.



Some gestures bring what you are saying to life, others are irritating.  Make sure your gestures are appropriate and consistent with your message.


It is not only others that are affected by your body language. Your body language effects how you feel inside. An increasing number of people practice Thai Chi, Yoga, and other forms of postural exercises because of the benefits they gain from inner poise.


As a receiver of communication

Being a skilled sender of information is only half the story. For communications to succeed you need to be just as skilled a receiver, as you are a sender.  This requires you to develop good listening skills.


There are three things to remember about listening.

  • Hearing and listening are not the same thing.
  • Hearing is only one state of the complex process of listening.
  • Hearing is the physical act of receiving sounds.


You hear with your ears.  You listen with your mind.

  • Listening is not something that just happens.
  • Listening requires a large amount of energy, unflagging attention and an effort to reach out.


Did you know that when you listen with concentration, the following happens?

  1. Your pulse quickens.
  2. Your eyes dilate.
  3. Your body temperature rises (and you perspire a little).


Active listening is a learned skill, which affects the quality of all communications at work and at home.


Active listening

Within our professional role, it is important to have certain information about our patients in order to be efficient and effective. Active listening skills are among the numerous skills that we must develop. This is done by observing the way that our patients present themselves (their body language) and by listening to them.  Hearing what they say, we can identify and understand their needs.


Everyone has their own set of values, attitudes and beliefs. It is important that we respect these and recognise that they vary from individual to individual, so that we can respect our patients in the same way we would wish to be respected. To collect information about our patients in this way, we need to actively listen.

Take time to listen

We work within the constraints of time and may give the impression that we are not listening to what our patients are saying. For patients to feel valued, it is important to give them the benefit of the time to listen to them. The gesture of active listening is very important.


Pay full attention

Use body language to show that the patient has your full attention. Face the patient, lean slightly towards them and make good eye contact.


Fight distraction

Find the best environment available and give the patient your undivided attention. In the event of distractions, put the interview on hold rather than fighting distractions.


Watch your non-verbal language

Remember that as we interpret facial expressions, voice level, and body language, so do our patients. Negative and non-verbal language will put a barrier between you and your patients.


Get involved with listening

Use a smile, a nod of the head and respond to your speaker’s cues. Use open questions, such as “What happens then?”


Look at matters from the patient’s point of view

Perception varies from one individual to another, resulting in misunderstanding. To be empathetic, you will need to use your knowledge of the patient.


Be reflective

Show that you have been listening by using some of your patient’s own words or ideas.



It is useful to restate facts, because it can open opportunities to clarify points. It allows you to offer the patient your undivided attention and quality time. You create the opportunity to gather information to be disclosed which will paint a broader picture of your patient. It may become necessary to take control of the situation if you are working within time constraints. Halting the flow when you have gathered enough information for your purposes can do this. The use of a closed question confirming details of a statement such as "they are ready for you next door now” will put you in control of the situation in a positive and efficient way.

 The Dental Business Academy run various online courses to help the dental team gain confidence in their role. From courses in treatment co-ordination, practice management and more we have all DCP’s covered. Our courses have been written by Janet Goodwin and Andy Toy, using their many years of practice and academic experience in the world of dentistry. 

Don't forget that members of ADAM receive a generous 30% discount on the cost of completing our accredited courses.  Visit our dental course pages or email info@thedentalbusinessacademy.co.uk to find out more.



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