Begin with Positivity

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

Begin with Positivity

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Positive thinking sometimes sounds trite and impossible, particularly at times of great challenge. After all, it’s pretty hard to “fake it till you make it” when there is no money in the bank, or your child is in the hospital with an undiagnosed illness.

So what’s the point?

Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude.

We have known for a long time that negative thinking tends to cause us to focus on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. In other words, it triggers our survival instinct.

This of course is useful if the threat is real and imminent, but what if the threat is only imagined?

It doesn’t matter – your response is the same. Creative problem-solving is off the table – and fight or flight ( overtly or covertly ) becomes the primary psychological agenda.

Now, consider how this issue influences new patient behavior:

A person enters a new environment that they have never seen, smelled, or heard before. Their sensory system is on high alert. Add to this a memory of when they were hurt or felt out of control.

Fight or flight kicks in.

The patient education video playing in the waiting room?


The sound of handpieces and suction?

“Oh my God!”

That dental office smell?

“I am feeling really anxious!”

The kindness of your staff?

They can’t feel it.

Your best recommendations?

They can’t hear it.

Instead, a mostly fabricated tape loop plays in their head – telling them to be aware that all their previous horrors may be about to begin again.

This is why we must make every effort to craft our new patient’s initial experience with us to be as unlike their previous negative dental appointments as possible. This is why initially meeting patients in treatment spaces is a bad strategy. This is why discussing treatment plans and options in treatment spaces is often unproductive.

In many cases the sights, sounds, and smells in these areas trigger memories, which then trigger negative emotions, which then trigger their right side creative problem solving mind to shut down. Instead, their thoughtless limbic system ramps up.



How do I get out of here as fast as possible?

Perhaps by saying yes to what I think the dentist wants to hear!

Consider all of this.

Re-organize your new patient experience so that at every possible turn from marketing to phone contact, to initial greeting to discussion of findings, they ALL STIMULATE positive feelings like hope, safety, caring, and control…positive right brain functioning, not negative limbic functioning.

Can this be achieved every single time? No, but you would be surprised at how often it works. And every time it works, you are one step closer to “yes”, and they are one step closer to a higher level of health and functioning.

Paul A Henny, DDS

Thought Experiments LLC, ©2016


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