Incorporating the Five Love Languages into Dentistry

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The Five Love Languages series by Gary Chapman offers insight into how our society expresses and receives love. This concept focuses on filling a “love tank” with acts of service, words of affirmation, giving/receiving of gifts, quality time, and physical touch. The actions could appear, for example, in our relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. How can the “Five Love Languages” enhance working in dental offices?

Acts of Service

There are many ways that “Acts of Service” can be given and received in the dental world. One good example is helping to turn around an operatory for another co-worker who is running behind. When you give of yourself to others in need, it truly does go a long way. Not only should co-workers be involved in selfless acts of service, but dentists might also consider this as well.

A dentist who I used to work for had a saying that many others could learn from: “I will not ask my employees to do something that I would not do myself.” This dentist would clean a disgusting trap if that was what was needed. That is quite the “Act of Service.”

Another “Act of Service” can be employee referrals. Employees do not have to send their friends and family to the office. However, when they do it is an “Act of Service,” it becomes a statement telling friends and family that they believe in the dentist and the team. This could also be considered “Words of Affirmation” in an indirect way.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation can go a long way. People need to know what they do well, more so than they need to hear about areas to improve. It gets old hearing day in and day out everything that needs to be improved without any praise. It can truly wear on a person’s psyche.

One time I heard about an office that used sticky notes to write positive affirmations to employees who had been doing something great. They were collected and then read aloud at staff meetings. Things like “Your help today meant a lot,” “You were great with that little boy who struggled with sealants,” “Your smile is infectious,” and “You are a great team player.” The culture at that office had a positive vibe. Truly how hard can it be to positively affirm one another?

Not only should staff be this way with one another, but the dentist should also likewise give his/her staff the same kind of respect through “Words of Affirmation.” Hearing from employers that they appreciate hard work can sometimes go further than a monetary raise because you have physically heard the words. It really is a basic human need to feel appreciated and recognized for the hard work one puts in.

Giving/Receiving of Gifts

By all means, employees appreciate the monetary raise or bonus for recognition as well. For some, if this is their love language, this will fill the employee’s love tank. When a staff member feels recognized as such, he or she will likely work as hard or harder to assure that they may continue to receive the monetary gift, bouquet of flowers, Starbucks gift card for a job well done, or perhaps a special event such as a birthday or work anniversary.

Likewise, employers appreciate the same recognition when it is a holiday, Boss’s Day, or a birthday. Showering people with gifts can benefit the giver and the receiver. It truly is a win/win!

Quality Time

Sometimes “Quality Time” can be part of “Giving/Receiving of Gifts” because there are offices that set goals and, once the goals are met, the team goes on a trip together − cruises, all-inclusives, or sometimes continuing education meetings wrapped into a trip. This a physical reward that also brings the team together for “Quality Time.”

What better way to bond as a team than next to a beach or on a roller coaster at a theme park? Team bonding is essential to manifesting the culture needed for a successful dental practice. Therefore, skimping on quality time could be a huge mistake. Clocking in and clocking out, doing the same old grind, will not create this culture.

Another example of “Quality Time” is a team meeting that brings everyone together to brainstorm how to serve patients best. The main idea during this time, though, is to allow everyone a voice. Doing so creates the bond needed among staff members. Another cool idea is to set closing times for the office and then do a team event together. One office would spend an afternoon at a local lake, go bowling, or join sip-and-paint parties. The ideas are endless and can create a stronger team. Get creative!

Physical Touch

Physical touch is one that is not easy to approach, simply because of the day and age that we live in. However, just giving an encouraging “pat on the back” can be enough for a team member to know that you are in their court if they are having a bad day. A high five celebrates a colleagues’ success!

We may work with someone who lost a family member. This is likely a good time to offer a hug. Do not do it if you don’t get permission. But once permission is granted, this just might be what they need.

Every person needs something different to “fill their love tank.” When they get what they need, they will be more fulfilled. What is your love language? What do you need? The most important thing to remember is the love language that fills you does not fill another. Give people what they need. Using this simple outline could create a fabulous work environment that will be a pleasure to go to every day.

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Angela Grover, RDH, BASDH
Angela Grover, RDH, BASDH, has been practicing dental hygiene since 1996. Angela received her AAS in dental hygiene from Central Community College in Hastings, Nebraska in 1996; she received her BAS in dental hygiene from Community College of Denver May 2018. Angela is a dental hygiene educator at Iowa Western Community College, where she is actively involved in community implementation projects with her students. In addition, Angela and her students volunteer for Nebraska and Iowa Mission of Mercy outreach clinics, as well as an outreach called One World, where they provide care a few times a month through Creighton University’s School of Dentistry to patients in need. Angela is a member of ADHA. She lives near Omaha, Nebraska.