Why emotional intelligence in dentistry is a vital skill
LEIPZIG, Germany: Emotional intelligence (EI) relates to the ways in which an individual can understand and manage his or her own needs as well as recognise and deal with the needs of others and the abilities to do this. As a dental professional, these are important skills to have because every activity during a treatment process requires connecting emotionally with patients, and those who can put their EI into practice effectively will be more successful in the long run.
Even though dental professionals work with people all day, they are not necessarily the best at doing so and often lack EI. For example, a study, titled “Emotional intelligence among dental undergraduate students: An indispensable and ignored aspect in dentistry”, showed that only 11.55% of 186 undergraduate dentistry students who were questioned in a survey had good EI. In a paper on the topic, author Dr Mohlab Al-Sammarraie stated that, as a dentist having many years of leadership experience, he believes “that sustainable progress of the profession depends on the ability of all dentists to strike a balance between meeting the emotional needs of the patients and adequately performing the required operational techniques”.
Is trying to increase one’s knowledge a waste of time?
What Al-Sammarraie is referring to here is the combination of EI and intelligence quotient (IQ). This relationship has been extensively established, and studies have shown that IQ correlates with cognitive control abilities. In summary, research suggests that EI matters more than technical competence when it comes to being a successful manager, that individuals with better social skills make better decisions and that the return of investment on working to improve EI is far higher than that for working to increase one’s knowledge.
This might be a hard pill to swallow for practitioners who love to refine their operative techniques (or whatever their aim might be) to utmost perfection. In fact, those technical skills are worth very little when they cannot be put into practice because dentists cannot connect with their patients emotionally and continuously encounter frustrating recurring leadership and staff problems.
EI is central to success
The good news is that EI can be learned. EI is described as the existence of four dominant behavioural traits called self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and the ability to manage relationships. The following paragraphs investigate each characteristic and consider some tips as to how those traits can be translated into everyday work life at a dental practice.
Self-awareness is the foundation for being a good leader, but it requires self-reflection. Assessing oneself objectively daily can be a good way to understand strengths and weaknesses that were shown in certain situations throughout the day. Asking trusted co-workers to describe oneself can also be a good source of insight. Another great tip is to keep a journal where goals, plans and priorities can be written down for future reference.
- Social awareness
To be more socially aware and, essentially, a better leader, it helps to practise some observational skills which include learning to understand what it means to truly listen to others. In order to do that, it is essential to pay attention to other people’s tone of voice, watch facial expressions and body language, develop a feeling for the general mood in the office, and try to notice the fine details which can make a considerable difference.
Often before someone has the capability to concentrate on others and pay attention to the seemingly subtle things that happen in a practice, he or she needs to gain control of his or her own workload. Planning for each workday and coming to meetings prepared can make a big difference and provide a feeling of control. Another great way to practise self-management is to set a goal, focus the attention on this one task, reflect on the task and then, mindfully, move on.
- Ability to manage relationships
All these tips should ultimately help to improve relationships around the workplace because people who work on themselves develop a better understanding of what is going on inside the heads of the people around them. To deepen connections with co-workers, it is important to identify relationship needs, manage boundaries, appreciate others and schedule time to build relationships.
Essentially, the reason why EI is central to one’s success is that more real-world problems can be solved with people skills rather than with pure intelligence. Luckily, everyday life has many situations in store where all four dominant behavioural traits can be practised.