E.I. and case acceptance

Last October, we began exploring E.I, which is "Our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.

Bob Frazer Jr., DDS, FACD, FICD

Last October, we began exploring E.I, which is "Our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships. In his book, "Working With Emotional Intelligence," author Daniel Goleman states that 75 percent of star performers' success is the result of E.I.. Only 25 percent comes from technical competency.

Emotional Intelligence is about being — not doing

Once you have the technical competency to perform a comprehensive examination, the most lasting way to increase case acceptance is to elevate your E.I. And E.I. is more about being than doing. Dentists are accustomed to improving technical skills through cognitive training. It works well if we also learn the underlying whys and wherefores. But cognitive training alone will not elevate your E.I.

Why not? Because E.I. involves neural circuits running between the primitive brain (limbic system; i.e. "the lizard brain." See my February column.), and the executive brain (prefrontal cortex or cognitive centers, i.e.; "the filing clerk" portion of our brains). The pre-frontal cortex learns how to prepare a complex restoration or assemble an implant through reading and limited practice. However, research shows that skills centered in the limbic system can change only with motivation, extended practice, and feedback.

Goleman further states in "Primal Leadership" that the limbic brain requires re-educating. By the time we reach our early 20s, our emotional circuitry is wired. However, a University of Wisconsin study that taught mindfulness (skills that help people focus on the present moment) to a group of stressed research and development scientists brings good news. After weeks of focused practice, the study subjects' brains shifted toward less activity in the right prefrontal cortex (the seat of distressing emotions). Furthermore, a Case Western Reserve study showed an improvement rate of 47 percent for MBA students who participated in self awareness studies, along with a 75 percent improvement rate in relationship management skills. This improvement persisted two years after E.I. education.

How can dentists apply this information? We must learn to undo unsuccessful habits and replace them with new, workable ones. It doesn't occur overnight, but, rather, with guidance, repetition, and feedback. You first have to decide who you want to be — what learning theorist Richard Boyatzis calls "your ideal self."

In our programs, we have clients write a description of the person/leader they wish to be in two to three years. Let's look at a composite of a typical client. "Rick" is 48 and has run a moderately successful practice for 20 years. We found him to be a technically well trained but reluctant leader with both staff and patients. He wanted to be liked, but could not readily label his emotions or manage them effectively to produce positive relationship. He actually feared telling patients they could benefit from major treatment. He did a lot of repairs and single-tooth treatments. He described himself as a "Dr. Do Right" type of rescuer, helping many who didn't value his care, using a team he thought was more concerned with what was in it for them than their contributions to improved oral health. He often interrupted others and finished their sentences; was reluctant to exercise and maintain his physical health; led a life that was out of balance; was close to burnout; and had given up on more technical education, since he already knew more than his patients needed.

After a few months, he created a vision for himself: to be a self-aware leader who inspired and empowered his team; to be appropriately transparent of his feelings; to be an outstanding, empathic listener; to exercise regularly, lead a balanced life, and routinely offer people his best and most complete care while growing his technical skills and his emotional competencies.

Interestingly, Rick has experienced a dramatic increase in case acceptance. Is that it? Hardly, but it is a superb beginning! The Roman philosopher Seneca said, "Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know for what port he is making, then no wind is the right wind!"

Dr. Bob Frazer Jr., FACD, FICD, is the founder of R.L. Frazer & Assoc., whose custom programs help dentists achieve the top 5 percent status in both financial achievement and life balance (fulfillment and significance.) He also is the co-founder of RMR, a multi-speaker, family summer E.Q. building conference (18th edition will take place June 29 to July 3, 2004.) Thirty years of quality practice and superb communication skills have propelled Dr. Frazer to a 28-year international speaking career. To receive information on RMR, or to receive "7 Ways To Grow Your EQ," contact him at (512) 346-0455, fax (512) 346-1071, or email bob@frazeronline.com.

More in Practice