(856) 264-9890
Download Our Free E-Book
Join The Academy Buy Our Books Attend A Seminar Contact Barry

Are You a Thin-Slicer?

June 22, 2015

Filed under: Art of the Examination — Tags: — Barry @ 3:26 PM
Every dentist has heard the story of the unlikely dental patient.  You know, the old farmer who comes in wearing beat up overalls, doesn’t give much feedback and ends up getting full mouth reconstruction.
What we never hear about is how many dentists that farmer visited before he said, “Cap me.”
I’ll bet that number is high.
The lesson behind that story is “Never Prejudge.”  And what a worthwhile lesson that is…but we just never seem to get it.
And I’m not just talking dentistry here.
We are built to judge…and prejudge.  Malcolm Gladwell, the popular author of Blink The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, one of his many bestsellers based on some very interesting psychology research, refers to these snap judgements as thin slicing.
The term thin-slicing means making very quick decisions with minimal amounts of information.We  thin-slice whenever we encounter a new person, a new situation or have to make a decision about something very quickly. According to Gladwell people make snap judgements quickly by relying unconsciously on thin slices of experiences.From an evolutionary point of view thin slicing can come in pretty handy.But when it comes to new patients…it may be better to think things out, take the time to get to know the patient.Yet. most dentists don’t.How do I know?  Because in conversation with many dentists, including my coaching clients through the years, I hear the prejudging, and I constantly remind them to take the more analytic approach of taking the time to listen, be open-minded, suspend all assumptions, meet the patient where they are, and approach all patients without an agenda.But…

Making these behavioral changes takes time…because our natural instinct is to thin slice.

Most of our judgements come from visual cues, but when we give someone a chance to put the verbal and vocal information into harmony we may see a different picture.

I know a dentist who made prejudgements by looking at the car the patient was driving.

And this dentist actually lectures to students.

When I first wrote The Art of Examination I thought it was overkill.  Too much analysis at every level.  Through the years though, by practicing what I preached, my experience with patients grew in a different way.  I was able to become more intuitive, and although I still didn’t, and don’t make snap judgements, I find I get it right more often than not.

So next time that old boy with the coveralls sits in your chair—take the time to listen.  Don’t prejudge.  I have found with all of the competition these days, that’s the one thing that will distinguish a dentist…no matter what the setting.

If you’re content that the dentistry you are doing is better than the office down the street…whether they accept insurance or not…don’t be fooled.  Patients who feel they are not being listened to will leave.

Make that your competitive edge.






  1. Hi Barry
    I read this blog with great interest. The theme of my present and new website is
    “We Take The Time To Listen”.
    As usual I totally agree with what you are saying and it is great to hear an affirmation of what I have always thought.

    Keep up the great work.

    Comment by jerry zanni — June 22, 2015 @ 7:06 PM

  2. Thanks Jerry—The issue of prejudging is difficult for most people not just dentists. We are wired to judge—but only, as you say, by taking the time to listen, can we slow down and truly understand people.

    Comment by Barry — June 28, 2015 @ 9:39 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.