Just Say No -Timeless Advice from Bob Newhart


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Some months ago I wrote a guest post on Lee Ann Brady’s blog called Trust is the Killer App. 

It is no great revelation to understand that no matter what business you are in, your success will depend on your ability to build trust and above all to develop trustworthiness.  In that post I described the Trust Equation:  T=C+R+I/S, where T stands for trustworthiness, C for credibility, R for reliability, I for intimacy and most importantly, S stands for self-orientation.

This is a topic I discuss thoroughly in my new book, The Art of Case Presentation...because trust is so germane to case presentation.

By far, the key to building trust is to increase the numerator and diminish the denominator…in other words to lower the degree to which you are self-focused.

But how do you do that?  My last post implied that you just do it (I hate when I get self-righteous), because it’s more difficult than you might imagine.  In fact it’s the essence of good leadership and falls under the categories of knowing oneself, self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills.  It requires the uncanny ability of executive attention, or focusing to the degree of shutting off your emotional brain. 

Most of the time we operate from our emotional brains…it’s the default.  When we don’t pay attention our minds wander.  When our minds wander—they wander to the self…increasing self-orientation and raising that denominator.

The key to reducing that number is to practice attention training…I’ll get to how in a second.

Dan Goleman, in his new book Focus, says, “Stopping on cue is the holy grail of cognitive control.”  By that he means that once we realize we have been emotionally hijacked we need to stop and correct.  In other words become more mindful.

After years and years of practicing dentistry, and fighting off my own demons (like an over-awareness of myself), I agree with Goleman that attention training and mindfulness is the key.  But it takes practice.  In my book I write about practicing the soft skills, but mindfulness practice can go a long way in helping you to develop the trustworthiness you will need to become an effective presenter.

What kind of practice?

Meditation, (Goleman suggests twenty minutes per session at least four times per week), and breathing exercises.

For me…I do meditate and I do hot yoga.  Both of these have done wonders for me physically but I can also tell you that the focus needed for both, slows the mind down…so I can become more aware…and just stop it when I am thinking of myself too much.

Simple? Yes. But not easy.

Or…just take the advice that Bob Newhart gives to his patient in the classic comedy skit that you can click on above.

Enjoy the video — it’s hilarious…and there’s a lot of wisdom and business sense in here too.












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Selling S***t No One Wants to Buy



Dachshund puppies

In my forty years of practicing dentistry I never had the opportunity to tell a patient, “It’s a boy!”

“You need a root canal,” aren’t the words that most people want to hear.  There’s a reason why comedians have picked on dentists for years.  If I hear the root canal metaphor one more time it won’t be too soon.

Persuading people to get their teeth fixed is a bit more difficult than selling cars or puppies.  I know…I sell puppies.  People come looking and they always leave a deposit.  I wish my front desk had it so easy.

There’s a reason sales professionals created something called the “puppy dog close.”

The closest thing we have to a puppy dog close is the trial smile, or cosmetic mock up.  But we can’t tell the patient to take it home for the weekend like a beautiful puppy.  A photo will have to do.

I can discuss needs vs. wants till the cows come home but the problem, as I see it, it’s what Avram King expressed years ago when he said you want your patients to be paying with “happy dollars.”

I really think this was the reason why the cosmetic dentistry revolution started.  Dentists realize that complete dentistry is a tough sell, what with all the objections, so they grabbed onto the most obvious visible benefit.

But esthetics shouldn’t be the driving force behind dentistry.  Hiding beyond the idea that everyone wants a beautiful smile (well, not everyone), is that everyone wants to keep their teeth (yes, everyone).

Strangely, not everyone likes dogs, but even still puppies are quite persuasive.  It’s a 55 billion dollar per year industry.

So how do dentists fulfill their obligation to help people keep their teeth?  Yes, I do believe it’s an obligation and if you are a dentist reading this, and you have other thoughts, I would like to hear from you.

It starts with leadership.   It really is about becoming the change you want to see in the world.  That is why I wrote my new book The Art of Case teach dentists there is no way of closing someone on keeping their teeth.  No gimmicks, no manipulative tricks.  Case presentation, persuasion, and leadership are all one.  An approach to practice and life.

Persuading patients to lose weight, stop smoking or get their teeth fixed will never be as easy as persuading them to take one of those dachshunds home…but that’s part of our job.  If we can do that- then  just like Sinatra said about New York—“if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

For a short time I will be offering the Art of Case Presentation at a 25% discount by clicking on the ADL Newsletter sign up button.








Is Humility the Key to Winning?

The reverse side of the Kentucky State Quarter...



In my last post I left you with one word: humility.  That was unfair because in the comments I realized that I didn’t tell you how to become humble.  And believe me I am not so arrogant that I think I can tell you, but I have learned a few lessons in my time.

And some of those lessons were learned at, of all places, the racetrack.

With Orb winning the Kentucky Derby last Saturday,  I was transported back to a time when I spent many of my leisure hours at the track.  I admit it…I was part of the subculture,  I already had the name…Doc, so I fit right in.  I used to spend a lot of prep time handicapping the races, and I did quite well.  I was known around the rail as someone who knew how to pick winners.

But picking winners is not easy.  I remember one guy, let’s call him Lenny because that’s a great track name too, who would always ask me who I liked, and then he would go and bet another horse…usually the favorite, because in the end, his decision making process led him to consult with what psychologist Robert Cialdini (Influence), calls the social mirror.

Lenny would cash a few tickets, and sometimes he would hit a long-shot…but there was no consistency.  No rhyme or reason to his betting.  But he was convinced that his process was responsible for his occasional success.  His losers?  Well, he always cursed his losers…they weren’t his fault.

I did much better, but I eventually lost interest and stopped going.  Years later I ran into Lenny at a local ice cream shop.  Same old Lenny, still chasing his dreams...he never stopped to figure out what he didn’t know…still telling everyone how good he was doing.  Lenny proved the old adage:

“You can beat a race, but you can’t beat the races.”

What did he need?

Humility…it probably could have saved him a lot of money.

So what is the connection to dentistry?  Most dentists don’t know what they don’t know.  They give themselves credit for the winners and blame their staff and patients for the losers.  There’s a lot more to interpersonal communication than meets the eye.  The late Walter Hailey once told me, “You have to kiss a lot frogs to succeed.”

I’d rather “know my frogs.”

You can learn humility in other places as well…on the golf course, at the poker table or at home with your spouse.

Life is the teacher.  But some people never get it…and what I learned a long time is that winning is a habit…and so is losing.






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What Does Dentistry Have in Common With Baseball Part II



In my last post on this blog I made the comparison of creating discipline in hitting a baseball with examining and communicating with patients.  Soon afterward  dentist-friend wrote me that the analogy can include staff as well.

I agreed.

I reminded him of another post I wrote concerning our definition of placing people above or below the line, and how we have a tendency to judge things as either this way or that way. 

I don’t know about you but dentistry has certainly changed over the past forty years, and our approach must change with the times.  There certainly was a time when my “boundaries” were a lot tighter than they are today.  To use a baseball analogy again, I see a lot more curve balls and cutters these days.

 Anyone can hit a fastball.

When it comes to patients my philosophy is to meet people where they are.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I have to bend my rules and change my policies to accommodate them…I just have to have more patience and more discipline.

I meet so many dentists who use phrases like “oh, that patient has no value for what I’m trying to do, maybe this isn’t the practice for them.”

Nice thought to discuss over a Miller Lite, but in this economy, where patients really need deep communication I like the approach to give them more of a chance.

I am seeing four patients at the present time that are in their late twenties, very poor dentition and personal circumstances that almost prohibit complete dentistry.  All have accepted care…and I am confident that when things get better, I will have played a big role in their lives.

The role of a mentor, a teacher. 

Taking time to understand them and build trust is the key.  I have written blog posts about motivating rather than educating…I want to quote myself, and hopefully you will quote me as well:  “You don’t have to know how The Force works, you just have to trust it.”

Patients, staff members who don’t trust the “force” have no place in a relationship with me.  I am quite sensitive to that…it never seems to work out in the long run.

Too many dentists are too quick to pull the trigger and tell a patient that this isn’t the practice for them.  Maybe it’s not.  Certainly, I have behaviors (boundaries) I won’t tolerate, we all know what those are.

So many of these patients are looking for someone who will work with them.  When our focus becomes one of growing people, we will grow along with them.

The guy down the street can’t do it any better than you.  Or any cheaper.




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Why Trust Prevails

images-3 “A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge.  The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter:
“Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.”
The little girl said:
“No, Dad.  You hold my hand.”
“What’s the difference?”  Asked the puzzled father.

“There’s a big difference,” replied the little girl.
“If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go.  But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.”


In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in the bind, but in its bond.  So hold the hand of the person whom you love rather than expecting them to hold yours…

The bond between a parent and a child or between husband and wife is self evident.  Trust is mandatory.

That trust also exists between a student and a mentor.  I believe a dentist is lucky if he or she can find that relationship in life.  It’s not always available and seems to be more difficult to find in these trying times.

As dentists, we too are mentors to our patients.  Our role is to take our patients by the hand and lead them across a threshold from the world in which they live to a world of health.  In the terminology of Joseph Campbell, the mentor guides the hero from their “ordinary world” to a “special world” by providing the lessons and the tools to make the journey easier.

Think about the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker.  In order for the mentor to affect the hero to move him to another plane, the first threshold is to develop trust.  Without it nothing happens.  The mentor’s role is to push the hero through any resistance.

People really do want to change…as I have said so many times...they are begging to be lead.  They are just looking for someone to trust.

In my new book I write about being a “transparent leader,” one who is all about helping his patients without having an agenda.  Being transparent is the key.

Ultimately trusting your dentist will get the patient through any difficulty.  Patients don’t have to understand how the “Force” works…just to trust it.

In my book I write a lot about persuasion and influence, storytelling and photography, but without trust—nothing matters.

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Is Your Team Playing the Same Game as You?






One question that I always get asked is, “Do your hygienists sell dentistry for you?”  I am always taken back by that question because I feel that the ultimate responsibility of selling the case belongs with the dentist.  However, there are certain roles that significantly contribute to the selling process.

Just the other day two staff members approached me just as I was about to sit down and start drilling.  With gloves on and mask in place they informed me that the nine o’clock patient didn’t want his teeth cleaned.  He just wanted a filling place and then he wanted to leave.

Okay…stop action.

If you are a dentist…what would you be feeling right at that moment?

What was I being asked to do?  De-glove and de-mask to go into the next room and tell the patient to get his teeth cleaned?  Of course not.  But how many times during the course of the day are there “opportunities to persuade” that staff members can easily handle.

Now I’m not saying they have to “sell a complex case,” but there are moments when just positional leadership can be quite effective.

In this instance I hold myself responsible for not inspiring my staff to take on the leadership role of persuasion.  And in speaking with my coaching clients, I know that transferring of leadership is something that dentists need to learn.

Dentists have lots of responsibilities during their workday.  They are constantly leading,  and the one responsibility that never goes away is motivating and convincing patients and staff to do what is right for the practice and for health.  Many grow weary of this task…and actually stop doing it.

I feel for the dentists…it is one reason I take leadership so seriously.

So, if you are a staff member…any staff member, take a leadership role and start persuading patients to take action for their own good.  Learn the “reasons why” people should take care of themselves.  Learn the reasons and learn how to best reach patients.

In many cases it’s a lot easier than we think…people are really begging to be lead.

If you want to help your boss—take the lead.

I guarantee it’s appreciated.