How can I help?
We say this to our patients every day. But you know, for now, they are ok. It’s you I’m asking.
You may be fine. You may not need or want any help. How can someone like me possibly offer help to you? If that’s what you’re thinking, then stop reading, go do your hair, pout and take a selfie. Bye.
But if you’re curious, then read on.
I meet lots of people who want help, perhaps need it, but delay seeking it. The delay has a pile of reasons behind it. Usually it takes a long time for the helpee to build enough courage and trust in me to make the approach.
During the Aspire season, it typically manifests on Day 11 or 12 (penultimate or final days) of the restorative course, so I think the looming end of face-to-face opportunities is an accelerator to delegates’ needs. Ironically, it’s often true that the deeper the need, the longer the wait. The deeper their need, the more reticent/embarrassed they are and the more courageous they need to be. In fact, we all need help, me too, and delegates help me more than they know.
If someone asks for help when it is sorely – perhaps deeply – needed, it’s analogous to someone waiting until the tumour has spread and they can see it through their skin before visiting the GP. The dental patient who has a mouth full of brown root stumps and pus who sees you and asks you if they can have ‘veneers and whitening’.
Even more exasperating is the contrast this casts with other, vastly successful, people. They have never waited until problems have grown. Whatever the walk of life, they spot problems early, tackle them and fix them when they are small. Bad habits at the weekend spread into weeknights. Skipping leg day at the gym leads into not having a leg day. Personal relationships that end in divorce usually started in a good place with at least the perception of mutual commitment. So, catch the problems and fix them immediately. Or prevent them in the first place.
Prevention is virtually always better than a cure.
Get help early and prevent problems from growing.
This philosophy for self-care (getting help) aligns with self-improvement.
When do you choose to upgrade your dentistry: in the last year of your career or the first?
When exactly should you get trained to do high-quality dentistry? (It certainly doesn’t happen at dental school, BTW).
Why wait to become good? Seriously, why would you?
Why develop habits that detract from your own desires about how you wish to practise, so that you don’t just get to upgrade and enhance, you actually have to unlearn first? Why put yourself in a hostile, unproductive, depressing, lonely situation for a few years before you decide you can’t take it anymore so desperately reach out and realise that you deserve more?
Why, OH MY GOD WHY, do dental schools not put masses of time and energy into training you how to detect and avoid toxic patients? Between 2-5% of the population are sociopaths, for goodness sake. That’s up to one in 20 patients you see every day are sociopaths. That’s terrifying. (If at this stage you have to google ‘What is a sociopath?’then your training really has left you exposed, vulnerable and unprepared).
So MANY questions which I wish I could understand. I never will. I have never met a delegate who has asked for help, skillset improvement, emotional intelligence training for dentistry or 1:1 career coaching advice who has regretted their choice.
Actually, on a personal note, the motes of gratitude are sometimes rather personally overwhelming.
The help works both ways too. When people put their trust in me as an older and experienced teacher, it comes with a DNA-level obligation to be able to offer genuine help. To have at least some vague idea what I’m talking about is essential. It’s well known now that textbook reading and lectures are pretty useless for true education. If you want to learn a subject, teach it.
Teach it publicly with fear of criticism and repudiation.
That’s why everything we teach we make applicable as part of every dentist-patient conversation. Everything is demonstrated live too. You then are able to teach and help your patient.
(It’s also why I can’t switch my input valve off and I consume knowledge and experience and data and outcomes and history and experience with a voracious atavistic hunger – a bit weird, but it’s how I fill my emotional energy cup).
The help you need or want is unique to you too but don’t think it’s weird or that you are different. It will probably fall under one or two of the following categories:
Because you want to improve your preparations or aesthetic outcomes
- Low morale/apathy/low motivation
- Unsatisfactory income
- Stress and or anxiety
- A wish to enhance and develop yourself (from an already good position)
There are endless reasons behind requests for help.
When we start to work with you, we ask you to consider your goals. It’s appalling that there isn’t more emphasis on this during your school and undergraduate education.
To sit down and think about this subject is really hard, but there are big advantages if you do. Even if it is just to eliminate, with valid reasons, things you don’t want to do.
Thinking is made easier if you do it openly by talking to others who know you and you can trust. If there is truly no-one you can talk to who can act as an honest chaperone for your probably-flawed thinking, then at least do your thinking with written words. If you can’t talk to anyone, then write your goals down. It’s almost impossible to lie when you write to yourself. It’s easy to be dishonest when you think (you are never going to win the lottery, but I bet you think about what it would be like to). You may not have any goals; we will give some free-floating ones, and you just fill the gaps.
Now remember both winners and losers have the same goals. More on that another day but you have to start somewhere.
When we do this exercise with delegates they can take as long as they like, yet they write down just a few lines.
What? That’s it? Your whole life plan, all of your life goals, your weaknesses, strengths, likes and heartfelt loves and desires is two sentences?
It’s not your fault, actually. Doing this is hard because you are complex and life is hard, and being you in this life is really complex and hard and my God being a dentist can be hard, but you can do it. We will help. A lot.
There are clear models for this from decades of clinical psychology research. They work. Really well, in fact. They are so individual and are based on your journey to what got you here, who you are now, and then, with some help, who you want to be.
Education and help have to be individual to match and all our delegates get that opportunity.
Why wouldn’t you be the best you can be? You’re going to be you anyway, so you may as well be the best version of that person for you, your family and everyone around you.