Monday, February 18, 2008

Call my therapist

I had a pretty good day yesterday.
So good that I am changing topics for the day.

I think most dentists are cut out of the same mold. I remember in my first year of dental school we had this professor who wasn’t a dentist but either a sociologist or a psychologist, but part of his class was to profile me and my classmates and anyone else that came through our school. And as it turns out, we were pretty much all wired the same. We are all perfectionists, people pleases, yes men, and all pretty much approval sucks.
Basically, we all want to be liked.
I think I try create all these systems in my life for people to like me and I put up all these walls just so people won’t dislike me. I treat people a certain way; I drive a certain way, practice dentistry a certain way, write a certain way… so people will like me.
(In a way, I can identify with Stuart Smalley).
Now it is easy in the office to hide this because I can say I want to have a successful business. I can say to my front office, “Did Ms. Williams come back for her second appointment?” (The first appointment at our office is always a New Patient Exam; basically it is an appointment that is just about me and them. They don’t get a cleaning; it is just an hour and a half with just me.) So the second appointment is a pretty good measurement. I would think to myself, if they come back for the second appointment, they LIKE ME!!
Now, in the back of my head I know this is crazy. There are a hundred things they may have stopped them from coming back. Too far to drive, the coffee was cold, the administrative staff was not friendly, it hurt to take the x-rays, they didn’t like the color schemes, it turns out we didn’t take their insurance…to name a few. But to me it is a direct hit to the ego.
OH! And yes, most dentists have egos.
So, when they don’t come back, I create diversions, “Oh, I didn’t like her anyway”, or “It must have been something the front desk did” or “She probably couldn’t afford me anyway”.
You see...It is crazy.
At the beginning of my career, it was really bad. I was a mess most of the time. (Well, I am still a mess most of the time, but I hide it better). I was new to this thing called dentistry and when something went wrong, or when someone called to have their x-rays transferred…call my therapist.
Can you imagine having a practice where when you went in the morning thinking, “If I don’t get a 100% today, it will be deemed a failure”? I know I am not the only one (remember we are all basically the same). And when I was a younger dentist this is the way I felt. Now, I can’t imagine why our suicide rate is so high. Dentistry is a hard profession to master. It is very hard to get 100% during the day, so to people that are wired to want 100%, this is a deadly (no pun intended) combination.
(A painful memory is when I was out of school for about 4 years and was having one of those months. I asked my wife if she could handle me going back to school because I don’t think I am cut out for general dentistry.)

I started to look at the big picture; I have a wife that loves me. I have children that think I walk on water (they are still young, what can I say), I have a great staff that believes in what we are doing, I have great friends, I have thousands of patients that call me their dentist, people at church think I am walking the walk, and my neighbors think that I am a good neighbor.
The overwhelming majority of people that I am around like me. So you see I still want people to like me, but I don’t NEED everyone to like me. I still am an approval suck but it is under control.
Do I piss people off? Sure. Do people leave my practice because they don’t like me? Yes. Do I hurt my patients (of course, I try hard not to)? Yes. Do I occasionally leave a filling too high? Yes. Do I obdurate the MB canal .5mm too short sometimes? Yes.
I am a flawed individual. I am not perfect (my therapist says I should keep saying this) I can’t do it. So I try my best and that is going to have to be good enough.
I can’t be everything to everyone. So I try to live by the motto…I can strive for perfection and settle for excellence. I know this sounds corny but it is true.

Back to yesterday.
We got up and got ready for church. It is always a good day when I don’t cuss before church. When we got to church everyone was smiling. Last week I had a church member that came to the office for a New Patient Exam. In the same week he came back for a cleaning (a prophylactic experience). I forgot to tell you, when someone come to my office for the first time, they always get a hand written letter by me welcoming them to the practice and telling them thank you for choosing our place. He came up to me at church and said, “Thank you, for the letter, it was a great touch.” That made me feel great.
Then after church we went to Five Guys burgers, by the way if you have never eaten there you are missing out, it is awesome. The place was filled with people we know.
A woman came to me that we know (not a patient) and said, “I know someone that just started coming to your office and she LOVES IT. She told me about an experience she had at your office and told me how great it is.” Aw man, twice in one day.
Then there was a family in there eating that had just switch dentists, to me, after a long relationship with another dentist. They just love the poop out of me. From the eight year old to the mother (seven kids) it’s a big lovefest. Then the father says to me, “Everyone in the family loves you so much that I made an appointment for myself next week.” At this point I am flying high. My head is so big; I could hardly fit it in the restaurant.
Then I saw him. He looked familiar. I stared and tried to light the candle of thought that lit his name (Pearl Jam rules). And it hit me. He WAS a patient. I haven’t seen him in about 4 years. Then the thoughts came, “I wonder why he doesn’t come to our office anymore? What did we do to upset him? What doesn’t he like about me?”
But then I caught myself and let it go.
This is a big step for me. Letting it go. Then my 4 year old slapped me back to right now when he needed me. “I gotta go pooppy. Will you wipe me?”
"Honey, where are you?"

See you Wednesday.

Aly...I have those burs you were looking for. Can you email me so I can send you the #s and the pictures. I am a

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