contact lens practice pearls
Managing Your Practice with the "Sandwich Approach"
BY THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO
Sometimes in practice you find yourself in a position in which you need to communicate information that's not all good news. You can make the bad part of the news more digestible by employing a communication method that I call the "Sandwich Approach."
What is It?
You probably use the Sandwich Approach daily, though you may not be aware of it. For example, suppose you'd like to spend some time with friends one afternoon, but you're not sure how your significant other may feel about it. You might approach the situation like this:
"You look great today, dear! Hey, I'm getting together with a few of my friends this afternoon. It'll give you some downtime with me out of your hair."
What happened here? In essence, the Sandwich Approach is a verbal exchange that begins and ends with positive statements (in this case, the compliment at the beginning and the promise of free time at the end), sandwiching the "meat" or the "bad news" you want to communicate (in this case, hanging out with friends for an afternoon) in between.
Taking It to the Lane
In the examination room, the Sandwich Approach can assist you in many ways. I find it particularly helpful when I'm talking with simultaneous vision multifocal candidates. To succeed with multifocal contact lenses, you must set proper patient expectations in place at the outset. We're generally good at not "over promising" performance, but you may find it difficult to present a realistic picture without sounding negative. Here's an example of how the Sandwich Approach sets just the right tone:
"With this lens design, distance and near light enter the eye at the same time. The beauty of this design is that it gives you the freedom to see far away and up close in any direction (positive statement). A little give and take exists, perhaps most significant in situations such as nighttime driving or detailed near activities such as removing a splinter. Eyeglasses may be a better choice for these types of activities (the meat). But I believe that I can meet most of your needs most of the time with these contact lenses (positive statement). Would you like to proceed?"
Managing Your Staff
The Sandwich Approach can help manage any potentially negative interaction between you and your staff. One common scenario in which you can use this technique is in managing staff who aren't performing up to expectations. In discussing the need for better attendance with an employee who is repeatedly tardy, a Sandwich Approach scenario might go as follows:
"You're a valuable asset to our team. We need you here (positive statement). Arriving late three mornings this week is unacceptable (the meat). I know you can do better (positive statement) and I'll expect punctual attendance from now on."
Making Touchy More Tolerable
Whether you use it in a personal, professional or business situation, the Sandwich Approach can make just about any touchy topic more comfortable and can make any negative news more palatable. Bon appetit!
Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio, and has served as a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.