December 4, 2020
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Are you making yourself understood?

By: George Malkemeus
March 6, 2020

Successful communication is an important part in leading a happy successful life. Making myself understood is a major element of my dental practice. Listening to patients and helping them get what they want is an important part of a successful practice.  Some patients want to save all their teeth at any cost, others want a beautiful smile and many others just want to be in good health at minimal cost.  I often find myself telling a patient the specific details of some great new dental procedure  (I so love to talk about dentistry, maybe you have noticed from my articles), and then I notice that they are giving me a blank stare, have turned off, overwhelmed with information.  It is time to stop talking and enquire about their concerns.  I have to stop telling and start asking!

Non-Verbal Communication

Studies have shown that 93 percent of communication between people is non-verbal.  Only 7 percent of what people react to and hear is the content of what is being said. [A sad state of affairs, but true.]  What is most important is the person’s body language, facial expression and the way a statement is said.  The same content can be said in a demanding way, or a sarcastic negative way, or positive affirmative manor or even as a question. The recipient can react defensibly and shut down without ever hearing the content or can even response explosively to one’s negative body language and facial expression, not hearing the content at all. Mimicking a person’s body language, called mirroring, can help lead to successful communication. Slowing up or increasing one’s speed of speech to match the other person’s rate  can help communication flow better as well.  Listening intently is usually more important than telling for good communication to occur.

Listen and avoid misunderstandings

Perhaps you have had the experience of trying to express an idea, only to discover that it was totally misunderstood.  How cans this happen so frequently when what we say is so clear to us?  John C. Marshall, who has written over thirty books on human relations and leadership, has provided some insight into why misunderstandings occur.  He says that the basic problem is that we judge ourselves on the basis of our intentions and are measured by others based on how what we say is perceived by them.  The two can be totally different.  

Here are four things John Marshall says will help us avoid misunderstandings and help improve communication.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  This will help you in being sure you don’t figuratively step on other people’s toes.  The key is to listen to other people’s concerns, to study their cultures or professions and to get acquainted with areas of interest outside of your own.

Think carefully about what the other person’s viewpoint might be before you speak or act.  Your viewpoint isn’t always right just because it’s yours.  If you work to understand the other person’s viewpoint, it will broaden your thinking.

Check your attitude.  Be sure you are not more interested in having your way than in preserving a relationship.  Be willing to change your viewpoint.  Show this by looking for similarities in viewpoint rather than differences.

Ask others what they would do in your situation.  When you have empathy with other’s points of view, it is easier to connect with them. By asking, you show that you care, and you are interested in them, plus you learn their point of view.

Communicating accurately is important in life whether at home, at work, with friends, or with strangers.  Now that you have the formula, hopefully it will help you to understand that while your intentions may be the best, you will only be understood after you understand.  Understand the person with whom you are communicating.  Remember to always ask questions, learn about the person.  Ask questions to verify you are being understood, such as, “does that make sense to you?”  You will only understand by asking, not telling.   Good luck and happy communicating!




George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at