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How Your Attitude Affects the Success of You and Your Practice

This month's article is by Chera Doty, the woman in my life and the only reason I have any attitude left!


Does your attitude really make a difference in the success of your practice? Can you learn to change those attitudes which are inhibiting your best characteristics and strengths? Can you help others -- your staff, your patients and your spouse -- have a more positive attitude toward dentistry and life in general? Wow, could anything so simple and down-to-earth really work in the sophisticated setting of a high-tech dental office of today? The answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Right now, you are thinking that I really don't understand the true situation. No one who ever worked in a dental office for more than a week could possibly remain positive and have an uplifting attitude. Don't I realize that being a dentist is difficult, demanding, frustrating, stressful and unappreciated? Take a look at the following examples. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

Your day begins with Mrs. Flatbottom whining again, "Yes, doctor, I told you that lower denture just isn't made right." (After 12 adjustments it still isn't fitting right. Of course, she never wears it enough to show you where the sore spots are located!)

Your next patient, Mr. Hurry, is 10 minutes late for his 20-minute appointment. He then boldly informs you that he has another tooth with a filling out that he would like you to fix today, in addition to the one you had planned to fill. Also, just so you know, he has an urgent meeting he must attend in half an hour!

Mrs. Jones calls to inform your receptionist that the bill for extracting Suzy's two baby teeth was too much. Mary at the front desk reminds you that it took only five minutes to extract the teeth and also that Mrs. Jones missed two appointments without any notice.

Finally, after another grueling day of drudgery at dentistry, you reach your haven called home. You are greeted by bikes in the driveway, toys in the front hall, three kids of assorted ages struggling to get your attention first, and a very tired, frustrated wife. Dinner is less than delightful so you excuse yourself as early as possible. You escape into your den with the "Do Not Disturb Me or Your Life" sign that your family has come to know and sometimes respect. Then, at the low ebb of your day, you pick up the latest journal and are bombarded with articles about your friendly OSHA inspector, EPA, malpractice, employee liability and other cheery subjects.

Do you feel your life is out of control? Probably, you do!

But is it Really? Maybe not. What can you do to change your life so that you feel more in control? Pay $10,000 to a practice management guru? See a shrink? Become a beachcomber? Change your attitude!

Although the idea is simple one, the process of changing your internal attitude toward life is not quite so simple. Your attitude toward someone or something involves the way you think and feel toward that person or situation on a conscious and/or subconscious level. Quite often, your attitudes control the way you then behave and respond. Also, your attitude can have an influence on how others respond to you. Remember when you met someone for the first time and within a matter of seconds you were thinking, "Boy does he/she have a bad attitude." It is something we can sense; something we can feel. Usually, we do not want to spend a great deal of time with someone with a bad attitude. What if you have slipped into a habit of having a bad attitude toward dentistry, your patient's, your spouse, your staff or just people in general? Do you suppose the people around you could pick up on that negative thinking? Could your reaction to, and expectation of, certain situations have any bearing on the amount of success you have in your dental practice. The answer is an obviou "YES!"

It is not enough just to say from now on I will be less negative and more positive. (However, that is an excellent way to begin the process of change!) It is not realistic to think that people can wake up one day and be totally transformed into their new, better self. Change is rarely an easy or quick process. Change requires work; it is often difficult. (However, that is no excuse not to start the process of changing your attitude toward whatever it is you want.)

Quite often, the negative way of viewing situations in your dental practice has become a habit. You go to work with certain expectations, certain preconceived attitudes. These negative attitudes, your way of viewing the situations, are so much of a habit that, usually, you do not consciously think about them. You just act on them. You expect to have a rotten day -- guess what -- you do have a rotten day!

Let's take a fresh look at Mr. Hurry. There are several different ways to deal with this situation. Your initial response might be one of anger, you may be very perturbed with him for being late, then expecting extra care while pressuring you to meet all his demands within his important time frame. You might think, "What about my time schedule, what about my pressure, what about the money I lost because he was so insensitive not to be here on time, etc.?" You charge into the operatory with a sarcastic, offending remark. Or you might keep your thoughts to yourself, but through nonverbal means, you consciously or unconsciously show him your anger. After all, he has ruined your whole day. He's just like every other insensitive, late patient. Boy, are you going to fix him!

One problem with this scenario is that right now you are not in control. Your anger is controlling how you think, how you feel and, if you let it, how your respond. If you allow yourself to continue in the same negative, angry frame of mind, you will not get the positive result that you might really prefer. How could this situation be different? What could you do to change your own attitude before responding to Mr. Hurry?

First, you could decide that Mr. Hurry is not going to ruin your day. Perhaps there was a reason he was late other than just to tick you off! Maybe he got stuck in traffic and that detained him, or maybe he was being chewed out by his boss or his spouse, or possibly he was so afraid of coming that the put it off until the last minute and misjudged the time. Whatever the reason, the fact is he is late and your schedule permits only one filling to be done today. You went into this particular health-care profession in order to help people and Mr. Hurry does need help. That should be your focus. How would you like to be greeted if you were in his place? What can you do to put him at ease before fixing one of his teeth? Find out which tooth is bothering him the most, the one you planned to fill or the new one. Treat that one tooth. Explain that because of your time schedule and his time schedule, you only can do one tooth now. Suggest that he schedule another appointment for the other tooth, perhaps on a day when he is not so pressured by time himself. Take care of his dental need as pleasantly as possible and get on with your day.

Don't dwell on your initial anger. Acknowledge the feeling of anger and let it go. Feeling anger at times is normal, it is part of being human. Feelings don't need to be labeled good or bad; they just are. But brooding on the anger and frustration, storing it up from day to day or from patient to patient, or saving it up from the whole day at the office and bombarding your innocent family and spouse with it at home is not acceptable or fair behavior. It is not healthy for you or those around you. Choose to let it go peacefully. Make a conscious effort to try to view each situation with as much humor and empathy as possible. Is there any way that Mr. Hurry could walk out of your office feeling better than he did when he rushed in there? Do you see how your attitude could have a bearing on the experience with Mr. Hurry and the other patients listed above? Take a moment to review those examples and see if you can see them in another way now.

You have a choice. You have control. You can learn how to change your attitude. By learning and practicing certain skills you can learn to change your thoughts. You can learn how to have more control over your feelings and your behavior. In turn, others will notice a pleasant change in your outer personality.

Remember, you should not deny your feeling, but accept them, experience them and then get on with your life. Don't dwell on the negative. You have the abilities and strengths within you to bring out the best in yourself and those around you. Usually, as you begin to become more confident and more positive, those around you also will want to do the same. Share your new-found secrets. Make a list-for daily review-as to what excited you about dentistry in the first place. Here are some possible adjectives and phrases: Dentistry is.. exciting, challenging, a caring profession, interesting, fun, beneficial, productive, helpful, creative, rewarding-the list goes on. Choose to concentrate on the positive. Choose to work toward changing your own attitude instead of trying to change everyone else. Choose to develop your own attitudes for success.


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