What kind of ridiculous question is that?

The story is told of a professor. He lectured frequently as a well-known expert in his field.

Same speech. Dozens of cities. Week after week.

He admitted his travel weariness to his chauffeur as they were driving to yet another engagement.

The perceptive chauffeur offered his assistance.

“I’ve heard you deliver this lecture dozens of times. I’ve practically got it memorized. They’ve never met you. We’re the same height, build, and bear a resemblance. Let’s swap roles and clothes. Take the night off. You drive. I’ll speak.”

They arrived. The professor chauffeured and the chauffeur lectured.

In fact, he delivered the speech better than the professor had in recent engagements. He wrapped up and prepared to quickly exit the stage to resounding applause but was stopped short by the program’s emcee.

He announced to the now primed and gathered crowd that they had time for a few impromptu questions from the audience.

The chauffeur-professor returned nervously to the podium. The first question of a highly technical and academic nature was asked by an unsuspecting, yet impressed audience member.

The chauffeur-professor paused…rubbed his brow…and said, “Sir, that has to be the most elementary, unthoughtful, and RIDICULOUS question I’ve ever been asked. In fact just to show you how elementary and ridiculous a question that is…I’m going to ask my “chauffeur” at the back of the room to answer it for me!” (Drops mic).

Speaking of questions (we’ll address another “ridiculous” one in a moment)…

The questions you and your team ask your patients are either strategic and therefore useful.

Or…

Your questions are trivial, unnecessary, and lack the ability to compel a beneficial response.

There’s a slightly “ridiculous” dental question that’s asked a lot. And it reveals a principle that can potentially harm your patient relationships…

Ready?

“Do you floss?”

Think about it – you and your hygienists know the answer to that question…right? In fact, you won’t spend two seconds gazing into their mouth before you know the answer.

You want your patient to hear in the “do-you-floss?” question that “Flossing is essential to good periodontal health.” What they hear instead (between the lines) is, “You idiot, how could you be so stupid as to neglect your oral health?”

The principle: Your professional role and expertise give you permission to speak confidently not condescendingly.

Questions matter. And it’s the deeper message that holds value.