Changing attitudes

Sept. 1, 2009
A few months ago I received a gift in the mail from Anne Guignon. She has a knack for picking just the right surprise for any moment.

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
[email protected]

A few months ago I received a gift in the mail from Anne Guignon. She has a knack for picking just the right surprise for any moment. It was a shirt that reads, “Caution: Attitude Crossing.” It was fun and definitely brought smiles to my family members, but it also made me think about attitudes. For some reason, we assume having an attitude is a bad thing. Hearing someone utter, “You have such an attitude,” doesn't bring positive images to mind. It's time to change the way we view attitude.

My mother says I was born with an attitude. We laugh about it now, but I'm sure she didn't always say it with a smile. When I tell my own kids to “quit giving me attitude,” it doesn't mean their cheerfulness is causing a problem. The word attitude assumes a negative perception most of the time, unless it's preceded by descriptions such as upbeat or easygoing.

Despite outward appearances, I always start my day with a positive outlook. Waking brings with it an assumption of positive experiences and productive work, and most days my assumption is right.

As we grow and mature intellectually, the events of life or words spoken around us control our feelings and perceptions of the world. With maturity comes the ability and responsibility to view life from within our own convictions and beliefs. The phrase, “Grow up and get over it,” does have some merit. With this knowledge, I make a conscious effort to surround myself with positive attitudes. The experiment has been enlightening.

The main thing I like about clinical hygiene is the people. Every day brings another chance to touch a life or be touched by someone unexpected. One such patient sat in my chair last week. Maude (not her real name) has a reputation for being a bit cranky, especially when it comes to spending money. In reality she is just lonely and likes to get a reaction out of folks. During her visit she said a couple of things that showed her real attitude and outlook on life. Maude wears upper and lower partials held in place by her remaining 11 teeth. Imagine my surprise when she said, “I've been really lucky with my teeth. I only have one crown in my whole mouth.”

I didn't quite understand her logic until she told me that many children who grew up in her generation had toothaches. When her teeth hurt, her parents were able to afford to have the offending tooth extracted. She sees people in her assisted living center with broken teeth or poor fitting dentures. Her partials are well made and even “whiter than the originals.” She has indeed been “lucky” with her teeth.

Maude's parting comment was priceless. As she was making her next appointment, she commented how great she has it living in an assisted living apartment. I remarked, “Not everyone in assisted living feels the same way.” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “If you enter assisted living as a sourpuss, you leave as a sourpuss ... in a box.” Eventually we all leave in a box, but what matters is how we handle life to that point.

Seeking those with upbeat attitudes in the profession has been a boost for my outlook. I find myself wanting to see the good in every person and situation. It takes effort, but the payoff is enormous. I may not ooze with excitement at the thought of scaling, but my perspective of my role in health care has changed. My attitude adjustment comes from professionals such as Tricia Osuna and Kris LeClair, as well as many others. Find your source of fun energy and watch your career explode into more than you ever imagined. My experiment is not over — attitude is taking on a whole new meaning.

About the Author

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is co–owner of Dental IQ, a partnership responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].