Episode 633: How to Have the Hard Conversations

 Tiff and Dana are back for another consultant takeover. In this episode, they talk about having hard conversations — the right way. They review step-by-step tips of how to prepare and how to navigate in the moment.

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0:00:05.6 Kiera Dent: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast. I'm your host, Kiera Dent, and I have this crazy idea that maybe I could combine a doctor and a team member's perspective, because let's face it, dentistry can be a challenging profession, with those two perspectives. I've been a dental assistant, treatment coordinator, scheduler, filler, office manager, regional manager, practice owner, and I have a team of traveling consultants, for we have traveled over 165 different offices coaching teams. Yep, we don't just understand you, we are you. Our mission is to positively impact the world of dental, and I believe that this podcast is the greatest way I can help elevate teams, grow VIP experiences, reduce stress and create A teams. Welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast.


0:00:51.8 KD: Hello, Dental A Team listeners. This is Kiera, and you guys, you are in for the best treat of your life, consulting takeover. That's right. Get ready, they are dropping some dynamite. Our consulting team is incredible guys, and we are so blessed and so fortunate to have them sharing tips and tricks with you today. And as always, thanks for listening. I'll catch you next time, on the Dental A Team Podcast.

0:01:13.6 Tiffanie: Hello, Dental A Team listeners, this is Tiffanie and you are here on the Dental A Team Podcast Consultant Takeover where the traveling Dental A Team consultants take over the mic and share tips and tricks from hundreds of offices nationwide. Today, I have with me Dana. Dynamite Dana, that's what I'm coining you from here on now, I don't know if it's been done yet or not. Kiera comes up with some awesome things, but Dana, I have you here with me today, and I'm super excited because I just love chatting with you. I think that we kind of ping and pong really easily, and you literally bring the pieces that I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I just didn't even think about that," because you're thinking deeper than I do, and I freaking love it. I love podcasting with you and getting those pieces. So thank you for being here with me today. How are you?

0:01:55.5 Dana: I'm good, thank you for having me. I think I enjoy it just as much as you, so I'm excited to be here.

0:02:00.9 Tiffanie: Yay! Good, good, good. Today is a fun topic. We talk about this a lot, and Dana, I know you just said you talk about it a lot with your clients too, and I think that it's something that is a constant reminder in personal and professional life. And being able to do this, I think, will make or break a relationship. This is communication, this is what harbors communication, this is what pushes communication, this is what pushes growth, and I think if we're not utilizing this tool, we're not doing it, we're running from things we're afraid of, and if we continue to do that, we just run this in the cycle, and ultimately, I think the relationships suck and people quit. [laughter] I think that it makes it so that it's impossible for people to work together, and because it breaks that communication cycle.

0:02:47.0 Tiffanie: So I don't know if you've guessed it or not, because we've talked about it here before, if you're one of our clients, we've talked to you about it for sure. And today's topic, we're gonna be talking about having hard conversations, you guys. I know, I know. And I honestly, I feel like every time I say it out loud, I'm like, I really wanna change the name because I think just the name makes it feel overwhelming, so it's like difficult conversations, not much better. Having conversations, this is literally just having conversations, walking into conversations that are difficult and knowing how to navigate them without knowing the outcome, which I think is what makes most hard conversations the hardest, is that you're not actually sure what the outcome is going to be, and so you shy away from the conversation in general, and just sometimes never even have it, which spirals into more situations. So Dana, what's your take on the name even of hard conversations?

0:03:44.5 Dana: I think it's called that 'cause for most people, it is difficult, it's hard, it's something they anticipate, they anticipate reactions, whether they come to fruition or not, it's the anticipation of how the other person is going to respond to what they have to say, so that's where the hard comes from. I completely agree.

0:04:02.8 Tiffanie: Yeah, yeah, totally. And I think when I learned how to have these conversations, it just opened up my world. I've done a ton of communication courses, I've taken a lot of communication classes and things, and this was one piece that just stuck with me forever, because it really changed the game on how to communicate with people. And I think we utilize it all the time in our company, and I think... I mean, I've utilized it, we've used it together, Dana, you and I... This is uncomfortable. I had to ask you a question the other day that was like, "This seems ridiculous staff to ask you, and I want you to know that, and it's very hard for me because it seems ridiculous, but I need this answer." And Dana was like, "Oh my gosh, yeah, for sure. Here it is." So I was like, "Thank you." It was uncomfortable because it just was something that shouldn't have needed to be asked and I had to ask it anyway, so we use it all the time, and I use it in my personal life constantly.

0:04:51.6 Tiffanie: But let's take you through the logistics. So you know kind of what a hard conversation is. I think identifying a hard conversation is any time that you need to talk to someone about something and you're finding yourself shying away from it. You're like, "Oh... Just one more time, I'll wait for the other shoe to drop. Well, it wasn't that bad yet, it's been worse before so I'm just gonna wait for it to be that bad again." Well, actually what you've done is, it's happened so many times you're softening to it, and so the like, it's not that bad is just because you're softening to how bad it has been. Fine, that's another tangent. Just take care of it. So any time that you're telling yourself, "Okay, maybe not this time, I'll do it next time, or too much time has passed, I let it go for too long," that's not a thing. Time is relevant, situations happen and no matter how much time has passed in between, the situations still happen.

0:05:45.5 Tiffanie: So sometimes we think, "Well, if we bring it up now, if I go back to it and I bring it up now is just re-harboring the situation, re-bringing up the situation, making all of those emotions that are gone relevant again." Well, the emotions never went away, they're still there, so really all you're doing is you're waiting for a situation to happen again to double up on emotions for them to all come barrelling at the same time. Rather than just saying, "Hey, two weeks ago, there was a situation that I was afraid to talk to you about. And I really need to address it because I don't want you to harbour it, I don't want this to come up again, I don't want this to be an issue when something else happens." That's totally fine. Time is relevant, emotions are real and emotions don't go away until they're dealt with, so you either let them pass through or you harbor them and you save them up for the next time.

0:06:29.1 Tiffanie: So any time that you come up against those situations in life or communication where you just feel like you're avoiding having a conversation with someone, that's a hard conversation. So the first and foremost thing that you do is figure out why is this a hard conversation for you, why are you shying away from it, what's the reason behind you tip-toeing around something and not just diving in full force with the conversation that needs to be had. Dana, what are some reasons... I know my personal reasons, but what are some reasons that you either shy away from conversations or clients? I know you talk to a lot of clients about this, so how many... Or not how many, but what have you seen your clients come up against as to why they're not having conversations? Why they're shying away?

0:07:14.3 Dana: I think the biggest thing, and it pains me to hear it right now, but I think the biggest thing right now is, "Well, I don't want them to leave because I can't hire, it's too hard to replace them, it's too difficult. I don't feel like going through that hiring process, finding somebody new, having to increase what I pay because everybody is demanding so much more, so it's easier for me to just put up with the negative behavior or the thing that I don't care for, because it's harder to hire than it is to just bear the consequences of not having the conversation."

0:07:48.7 Tiffanie: That's a huge one. Good job. That one's been coming up a lot on my end too for clients, is I don't want them, I don't wanna have this conversation and then push them away or make them think that maybe the grass is greener somewhere else. So then I think that's the reason right, well that's a good reason to start with, or at least we'll wrap it up, 'cause I think that's pretty relevant for everybody, so if that's the reason we're afraid to talk to somebody because we think that they're going to leave or that they're gonna get so angry, they're gonna go find other opportunities, so then I think my question there is, what's the worst outcome if that were to happen? So then you're looking at your pros and your cons of why do you need to have this conversation with someone? So if it's that you need to have a conversation... If you're trying to have a conversation with someone and you think that they're going to leave because of that conversation, I think they might already be looking, number one. [chuckle] Okay.

0:08:40.8 Tiffanie: They're probably not a stable team member to begin with. And then number two, if it's that bad, is this a situation that is going to damage the relationship so much, whether it's talked about or not, that if they were to leave it would be better? That's the real question, is what's the worst case outcome of them leaving. So your biggest fear is that they will leave, now you've gotta think about if they left, what's the worst case scenario? Because the truth be told, you're not actually afraid of them leaving, that's a consequence of the conversation, what you're afraid of is the worst case scenario when they leave. So look at that, dive in, why am I afraid to have this conversation, and then if that thing came true, so if it's because you're afraid people are gonna leave, if they leave, if that thing came true, what is the worst consequence of that thing coming true?

0:09:36.9 Tiffanie: So it could be that you're under-staffed and you don't have a dental assistant, so now you're a doctor without a dental assistant, this is your only assistant. What is the worst case scenario there? What does that mean to you? And is it as bad as what you think it's going to be? Is it worse to keep a team member... Not having a conversation, keeping a team member that you're walking on egg shells for chair side, or is it worse to just figure out how to assist yourself for a couple of days until you... Or working with temps or whatever. What is that worst case? So first and foremost, identify why you're scared to have the conversation, why is it hard for you, and then what is the worst outcome, the worst case scenario for that situation. Dana, what do you think?

0:10:22.9 Dana: Yeah, I completely agree. I always play the story all the way out, and two, then I always challenge when I hear this from clients, it's if a team member is presented with an opportunity to grow and they choose to leave, was it a right fit to begin with?

0:10:40.2 Tiffanie: I like that. Yeah. Okay, I'm writing down notes so we don't forget these pieces. These are action items. I love it. Okay, and I hope you guys are taking notes too unless you're driving. Don't take notes if you're driving. You'll listen later. If you're not driving, I hope you're taking notes 'cause this is good stuff right here. And it works, like I said, these are my favorite things to talk about because I love when I get to hit personal life too. And I think that when I can coach or consult a client and they're like, "Oh my gosh, this is like marriage counseling, this is stuff I can take home to my kids, this is something I can use with my best friend I've been struggling with." I'm like, "Yes, please," because our lives are our lives, we have different portions and sections of our lives, and we try to compartmentalize it all, but we are only one human being that we split into a million different pieces.

0:11:31.1 Tiffanie: And if we treat every piece differently and act like we have to communicate differently or be totally different, obviously, our words are going to be different, the way we present ourselves are different, but if we can reduce the amount of change we're trying to make in every aspect of our life to the person that we are, your stress will be relieved, so if you just understand that communication is communication, relationships are relationships, period, no matter who they're with, you're just going to change your verbiage and your words and your demeanor depending on who you're talking to, you're gonna reduce a lot of stress in your life. So take this stuff and apply it to everything.

0:12:09.6 Tiffanie: So identify why you're avoiding the conversation, whether it's with a team member, if it's with a spouse, if it's with somebody you're dating, with your kid. I have these conversations with Brody and we communicate so well because I push the lines. And then identify your worst case scenario, I liked how you said, I wrote it down, play the story all the way out, so play the story all the way out, and see what would actually happen, and then give yourself a date. When are you going to have it? And we're gonna go through what the verbiage looks like, but give yourself a date, a deadline. When are you gonna have that conversation? If a relationship is ending personal or professionally, give it a date, what difference does it make if you feel like this relationship is ending, the longer you allow it to go, the worse it's going to be.

0:12:56.4 Tiffanie: I had a client last week, Dana, I think you were on that call with me, and I got fired up because I was like, "Listen, would you allow your daughter to continue dating a guy who was only showing up to 85% or 95% of what a 100% should be?" And their daughter's 16, so it hit home real hard and they were like, "Actually no. She just broke up with him two weeks ago." And I was like, "Exactly. But you're allowing these team members to treat you and show up for you to 85% of what 100 should be. You would never allow your daughter to do that with a significant other, but you're allowing it to happen to you because you're just gonna deal with it." Sometimes we forget that we need to love ourselves more than other people can, and we love on other people more, so we're gonna take care of our daughter, we're gonna make sure our daughter is not getting messed up from some boy, but then these dental assistants coming in not assisting my doctors, I'm like, "I will get fired up."

0:13:53.8 Tiffanie: So play that story all the way out. If a relationship's ending, it's ending, you dragging it out is only making it worse, and I think all of us have on some level done that, especially in some sort of a personal relationship where you just knew it was ending, you just weren't willing to end it in the timely manner. So identify why you're avoiding the conversation, play the story all the way out, identify your worst case scenario and then give yourself a timeline like, when are you going to have this conversation and the quicker, the better, the sooner the better, but make sure it's not going to deviate business. That is a huge piece. I don't want you to do it at 10:00 AM on Tuesday because you feel fired up. You've got a full day of patients, if it's a conversation that's really going to shake the day, maybe have it at the end of the day. You don't necessarily have to wait til the end of the week, unless you feel like that is going to be a benefit. I'm not here to tell you what's right or wrong there. I'm just saying, don't let it go too long so that you then talk yourself out of it.

0:14:51.7 Tiffanie: So identify the date and we're like, "Okay, I'm gonna have it, we're gonna do it," and we're walking into it... My favorite way to do it, and Dana, I wanna hear yours too. My favorite way to do it is to really just word-vomit why this conversation is hard for me from the get-go. I had an awesome coach in my life years and years ago, and she used to say it as saying the thing that's keeping you from saying the thing. And it just made so much sense to me because I'm like, "Why am I holding back?" So I've already identified why I'm avoiding the conversation, now I'm gonna tell you why I've been avoiding the conversation. Usually it's because I don't know how you're gonna react, and it's really difficult for me to walk into a conversation not knowing the direction it's gonna go when I have an outcome I want it to end in.

0:15:40.5 Tiffanie: That's typically how I say it, or like Dana last week... I know this is a silly question and it feels really silly just even having to ask it, so I just... I blurted out, "I'm having a hard time with this conversation because this is a difficult thing for me to address, this is uncomfortable for me to address, I don't wanna invade your personal life, I don't wanna have to talk to you about being here on time, because it feels small to me and it makes me angry, but I know that there's reasons that I wanna hear from you too." I just word-vomit the reason, so I've identified it and then I'm gonna tell you exactly why, because now your guard's gonna be a little bit down, right? You're gonna say, "Okay, I hear you. Come out me. What is it? What do you need to say?" Your guard's gonna go down, my guard is completely down and I've just, I've become so vulnerable because I've literally put everything on the table as to why I'm harboring this conversation. I'm completely vulnerable, my guards are down, and it typically will make the other person let their guards down as well and become a little bit more comfortable with being vulnerable themselves. Dana, what do you think?

0:16:49.9 KD: Hello, Dental A Team listeners, this is Kiera and you guys, how was your 2022? I want you to look back and tell me, was it the year of years? Or was it a really hard year? Did you crush it? Or did it crush you? This is the time guys, for end of year Dental A Team platinum is welcoming you where we will physically fly to your practice. We will come and we will elevate your dreams and make them into a reality. And guys, space is limited and prices are going up. This is not a sales pitch. This is not something where I'm trying to scare you into it. I'm just facing the reality of inflation is here, flights are expensive and I want to see as many people as we possibly can and serve as many as we can. So if you wanna be part of our elite group of people, there are limited spaces because our consultants can only see as many. We are taking on 10 new platinum offices by the end of the year and that's it. That's all we have space for. So if you want to be one of the elite 10, come join us.

0:17:51.5 KD: Be a part of our top notch elite doctor community. Be a part of our office manager and hygiene and front office communities, get your operations manual done and live the life that you've only been dreaming of today. Email me [email protected] and make 2023 truly a year that's unforgettable. We are a complete tax write off and like I said, we are only taking 10 offices. So don't get left behind. Be one of those 10 and I cannot wait to give you the biggest warmest welcome to completely and utterly changing your life for good. Welcome to the Dental A Team. I can't wait for you to join us, [email protected] Cheers to 2023 and making you your best self yet.

0:18:37.8 Dana: Yeah, I agree. I think go in and be honest and admit that this is difficult, that I have avoided it, that it has maybe created some tension because I've avoided it, I would say own your end of the fact that maybe you've put this off, maybe it's going on too long. It can't go on any longer, so you're gonna push through and have this conversation, but letting them know that it is hard, and then my only piece in this that I wanna say on the flip side, if you are the receiver of a hard conversation, understand that, that person trusts that you will hear what they say and grow from it, and so they feel like you can grow or they wouldn't even bother bringing it to your attention, so sometimes I say as the receiving end, understand that this person trusts that you're going to hear what they say, and grow from it. So sometimes it can be hard to be the receiver of that hard conversation, but I think when you have the mentality about, "This person really thinks that I have the ability to change, that I have the ability to grow," it helps frame that perspective.

0:19:48.3 Tiffanie: I love that. I think that's huge, and we, I don't think, talk about that side of it often enough either, so that's huge. I think just letting people be seen and feel heard is huge, and that in itself will help ramp up a relationship no matter what, so I think that's right, being on the receiving end, just understanding that it's hard because there's legitimate concern behind it, they are concerned that you're not gonna understand the actual love and appreciation that they have for you, that's why they're coming to you the way that they do. I love that, I love it. So you said own your end, and I liked that, I wrote that down, so I love that. Own your end, tell them what you figured out, why is it hard to have the conversation and then have the conversation. I think one of the biggest pieces to that is we talk about the art of silence with treatment planning, and I think the art of silence is important in this conversation too.

0:20:43.8 Tiffanie: We like to fill the void of un-comfortability with words, and oftentimes, we dig ourselves into a hole so sometimes it's just about saying why it's hard for you to say what you need to say, say what you need to say, and then kind of go silent, kind of say, "Okay, that's it. I'm done." Where does that land for you? I like asking questions right at the beginning, I sometimes will preface it with, "Hey, actually I have something I need to say to you, I'm not sure the right words to you, so I'm gonna give it a shot. I'm scared to have this conversation because I don't know the direction that's going to go, 'cause I can't figure out my word, so I'm gonna say what I need to say, and at the end, will you please... Are you open to having a conversation with me about how that landed with you and what you heard?" That's a really easy way to take down somebody's guard as well, and to take off the pressure from you.

0:21:32.6 Tiffanie: I mess my words up all the time, I do it on these podcasts, you guys will hear it. I'm positive, I never quote things right, I mess my words up constantly, and so being able to be okay with that as a human being and be okay with... You don't always have the answer. You don't have to always be right. You don't have to be perfect. Makes it so that the person you're talking to can feel comfortable being themselves as well. I am so comfortable with the person that I am, and I feel like it makes it easy for people to feel comfortable and to let their guards down when they're around me, because I just don't care enough to put up the facade, and if you go into the conversation that way of "I am who I am, and this is what I need from you", at the end, most often than not, they're willing to say, "I think I heard this. Is that what you mean?"

0:22:23.0 Tiffanie: My kid does it with me all the time. Brody will say, "Let me verify this, I think what you asked me to do is X, Y, Z," and I'm like, "Wow, I'm so glad you asked because that's absolutely not what I said, or not what I meant." My words definitely didn't take me the direction I wanted it to go, so it works, just be willing to take the feedback as well. So if you're a recipient, be willing to hear that hard conversation and be open, and then if you're the one giving the conversation, having the hard conversation, you've gotta be willing and open to understand that there's gonna be a reaction and you've gotta be okay with however that reaction lands, you can continue to talk through it if the reaction is high-end, if there's more conversation that needs to be had, continue to talk through it by keeping your reactivity low. If you stay calm, the conversation will stay calm even if they get upset or they get high-end, you staying calm will help keep the conversation calmer, just try not to get defensive and it'll go well. It's a lot of words.

0:23:25.5 Dana: Yeah, I agree, and I think one thing when it doesn't land really the way that I meant or I was hoping, I will flat out, be honest and say, "Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I was hoping this is what you would hear from it, because then I think that helps us go back and navigate or re-navigate the conversation to get to that outcome that... I missed the mark somehow, I was hoping that this is what you heard, let's just revisit or go back and let me make sure that this is what you're hearing."

0:23:58.5 Tiffanie: Oh, I love that. You have some good words today, Dana. You are bringing it. I love it. So let's recap a little bit. So having a hard conversation first and foremost, identify why you're avoiding the conversation, what's holding you back... So what is making it hard for you. And then identify the worst case scenario of that thing, if it came true. And Dana said, play the story all the way out, so play it out. If this happened, imagine what that would look like. And then I think one of my favorite things is that meme... Or the quote, but did you die? But did you die? No, probably not. So let's work our way through that. So play the story all the way out, and then own your end. I love that one too, Dana. Own your end, say why it's hard, walking into the conversation and say what's holding you back. Why is this conversation hard? I just like to word vomit and own it, I think it's just so fun to play with it.

0:24:54.4 Tiffanie: I feel so much better when I own my end, when I say, "This is why for me," because I can't... I have no control over the other person, I have no idea what's even going on in their heads, all I can do is control me and own my own stuff, so I love that. Own your end, say why it's hard, and then say what you need to say. Say the thing, get it out. Say the thing, ask for feedback. And I think lastly, something we didn't really touch on, a lot of these conversations need to come with solutions, they need to come with an action item at the end. What's gonna resolve the situation? If this is a hard conversation, obviously something's not going well, there's something that needs to change or adjust or pivot, be reinstated, something's not working to its fullest capacity, so what are you going to do moving forward that's going to change so that you don't continue to get this outcome?

0:25:46.8 Tiffanie: There's typically going to be a solution attached, and we love solutions with deadlines, so if it's something that needs to be implemented or done or fixed, have a deadline attached. If it's behavior that needs to change, then maybe it's... I would love to see this change consistent within the next two weeks, let's come back in two weeks and see how we're both doing, let's put an actionable measurable item to it. If it's tardiness, I know that's been huge for a lot of my practices, team members showing up late to work constantly. Measure it, give them a target to hit, measure it and come up with consequences. So identify, identify, own your end, say what you need to do, and then come up with actionable solutions. Dana, is there anything in there you feel like I missed on those "how to"?

0:26:33.9 Dana: Well, I love that you said, come up with a solution, and sometimes too we'll have these hard conversations and at the end we'll say to team members, "Okay, so I expect you to be to work on time." If you can partner with them on a solution, sometimes you can get buy-in or that conversation goes better, even if it is like, "Hey, can we disagree? Let's set your alarm 10 minutes early or let's... " Again, we're just troubleshooting together, yes, they may know what will work best for them, but sometimes if you're an active part in finding the solution versus "This is just my expectation, figure it out", we get a little bit more buy-in when it comes to that or those conversations go a little bit better.

0:27:10.0 Tiffanie: Amen, I love that, I love it. Awesome, okay, guys. That was hard conversations. And there's a couple of different podcasts on this, we talk about it a lot because it's so relevant, you guys. I want you to just look for them, look it up, they're all gonna be very similar, but there's gonna be good verbiage tools in all of them because we think of it on the spot. We put it in here for you. Dana had some rockstar things to say today, those verbiage tools were huge, and I know Britt's... I think Britt's done one, I know Kiera and I have done them. They're in there, so find those verbiage tools, you guys, feel prepared when you go in there and feel like you can really really own what it is that you need to say.

0:27:48.7 Tiffanie: So, howdy, guys. That wraps up the Dental A Team Podcast Consultant Takeover. Let us know what you think. We love hearing from our listeners, truly, truly, truly love it. Drop us a five star review or email us over at [email protected] Thanks so much for listening and we'll catch you next time on the Dental A Team Podcast.


0:28:08.4 KD: And that wraps it up for another episode of the Dental A Team Podcast. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time.



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