When Constructive Criticism Turns Someone on the Defensive

by Dr. Ron Arndt

Dental Practice Communication Tips
Providing feedback to a team member is often done with the best of intentions to offer “constructive criticism.” The Dental CEO hopes a team member will appreciate the information and make appropriate changes.

Now, be honest: How often does it go that smoothly in your dental office?

It’s uncomfortable and tough. It can quickly become a negative experience. Sometimes, the team member receiving the feedback becomes defensive. Upset. Emotional.

Here are some tips to prevent negative reactions to construction criticism:

  • Don’t wait for an annual performance review. Give feedback weekly to team members—good and bad. It can be something small, like “The way you handled the young patient today to ease her fears is what makes parents continue to trust us.”
  • Mind your manners. Approach the team member by asking “May I give you some feedback?”
    Ask the team member to give themselves feedback. People are tougher on themselves than you are. They will work harder to improve areas they target. Give your opinion after they have had an opportunity to express themselves.
  • Critique the behavior, not the person. Example: “I am unhappy with your behavior in the presence of our last patient. I sensed she was irritated when you raised your voice to her.” The ego remains intact and the team member will be able to “hear” your observations.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

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