Monday, November 11, 2013

Breaking the Ice

I asked a patient how he was doing. He replied, “So far so good. But, you know that the person falling off a 10-story building also looked inside each window and said that.” I was not sure how I should respond. Was he just joking, or was he expressing his concerns indirectly? Midway through the appointment, he looked at my assistantwhile she was holding the suction tip and said, “Your job really sucks.” It then became obvious to me that he was joking and that we were in for an unusual experience. Whether this was his way of dealing with his stress in the dental chair, or it was his everyday usual self, he seemed entertained and he entertained us, too.

I have to admit that I admire those individuals who have a sense of humor and the ability to lighten up souls without offending anyone. It must really feel great to instill joy in others and make them smile with simple words.

As a young professional, I always wanted my patients to take me seriously. As I gain experience, I feel more encouraged to use humor as an additional tool to break the ice and help my patients get comfortable. Having that confidence helps me feel comfortable in knowing that my patients will not see me as a goof.

But this type of interaction can leave us so vulnerable to misinterpretation. A long-time team member in our dental office, known to be the one who elegantly gets our office parties going, wrote a note:“It is Boss’ Day! Please pitch in. We are going to get a gift certificate to thank him for another year of BOSSING!” Another long-time team member saw more irony in this statement than humor. This was a testament to this vulnerability, even among people who know each other well.

Offending someone is what always concerns me the most. Unfortunately, I have done that. By nature, we humans are sensitive creatures. It is very easy to be misunderstood due to our different backgrounds, such as culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc. And let us not forget the possible legal ramifications that can spring up from that, too.

I guess that the safest humor seems to be when we make fun of ourselves. But even this can be challenging. It requires humility and wittiness to deliver with orchestration what can brighten someone’s day.I am not sure about you, but it makes my day when I make someone genuinely laugh.

I am afraid that we are losing this great ice breaker. Eliciting laughter is one of the traditional methods of healing. The least we can do is to loosen up and share joy, in the form of humor or just telling a joyful story.

When I have started my days, meetings, and presentations with something genuinely joyful, I’ve noticed that I am received with more attentive minds and bodies, and it always comes back to me.

Samer Alassaad, DDS

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