Edwin A. McDonald, DDS
What is the foundation of all great relationships? It comes down to one word: love. Why? Because love will produce the energy that fuels your success. What does it look like and how does it happen? Let's take a look.
Our systems should be designed to create an experience of significance, inclusion, and competence for the patient. That means we must think, feel, and believe that each of our patients is highly significant and, therefore, valuable. We must accept patients right where they are and make them a part of our practice family. Finally, we must believe in them and trust them enough to make the important decisions required to achieve optimal health.
In order to create the right experience, our systems must include the time, environment, and intent of creating a heart-felt connection with the patient. This happens through attitude, using curiosity, listening to what they say, and asking the right questions. At the same time, we must reveal our personal selves and our philosophy. This takes time and effort, but so do all things that you love.
What really happens when you love something? You pursue it! You give it your attention. It stimulates energy. It builds passion. You listen, care, and basically treat the object of your love as the most important thing in the world at that moment. You can't fake love for someone, but if it is in you, there is nothing more powerful in the world. When you surrender to the unequalled value of another person, that person knows it. Let me give you an example.
A couple of years ago, I saw my patient, Linda, for the first time. She was outrageous, defensive, and opinionated. She did not take care of herself, and thus had significant dental problems. All of her behavior was screaming for one thing — acceptance. We accepted her! One appointment at a time, her defenses dropped. She began bringing Starbucks coffee for the staff to every appointment.
At a recent appointment, I expressed to Linda my concern that some of the key teeth we were relying on were going to fail. I told her that we should take time out to reconsider her treatment plan. She said, "I trust you, and I know you have my best interests in mind." These words and their attendant feelings were like magic. She, my team, and I had succeeded in building the kind of relationship required to help her get where she needs to go.
So let me ask you a question. What is that worth in the marketplace? What is the value you attach to being able to build an authentic and rewarding relationship that benefits someone? I contend it's priceless.
As I have previously written, it all begins with the relationship you have with yourself. Fill your personal bucket of self-worth to overflowing, so you can pass on love to your patients through expressions of caring, acceptance, and trust. The mission to help others to the absolute best of your ability guides this kind of foundation, producing uncommon relationships and results.
In his book, The Radical Leap, Steve Farber tells us to make a "heart connection" with others we lead, such as patients. He writes, "So how do you establish the connection? ... By revealing yourself as a human being to those you hope to lead. So, instead of reciting a vision statement, feel the intent of that statement, reflect on the ideals that it represents, and take it all into your own heart. Then, at every opportunity, whether you are talking one-on-one or standing in front of a crowd, you say, 'In essence, this is who I am. This is what I believe. This is what I think we can do together if we put our hearts into it. Look at how magnificent our futures can be. Please join me and let's help each other make this happen.' Then you can burn the document because, in essence, you have become the vision." The heart connection that this can produce in a doctor-patient relationship is electric!
How magnificent could your future be if this were the basis for all of your relationships? I think your future would be limitless!
Dr. Edwin A. McDonald graduated from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston in 1980. He has been in private practice in Texas since 1983. Dr. McDonald serves on the Board of Directors and is a Visiting Faculty member of The Pankey Institute. He is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Texas Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Texas Academy of Dental Practice Administration, where he served as president. He lectures and presents to study groups throughout the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.