Several months ago, I made another trip to Florida and my speaker/writer buddy picked me up in her Divamobile (see the May 2002 RDH). We were both anxious to spend another "Diva Day" laughing and talking and just letting our minds wander into uncharted, exciting territories. After a fun afternoon in Miami Beach, we headed to our hotel to change clothes and get ready for a relaxing evening together.
We were on our own time schedule. So before we left for dinner she flipped on her laptop computer to the www.moviefone.com/features site. When the movie first appeared in local theaters, if you typed in "Ya Ya Sisterhood" in the movie name box, a page popped up, announcing the YaYa Name Generator - a place where you could find your true YaYa Sisterhood identity. My friend typed in the names of each of her friends, and many fun and unique honorary titles were bestowed. She could hardly stop laughing when she told me that my YaYa name was Queen Who Walks on Water when she typed in Anne Guignon, RDH. The possibilities fascinated me so I typed in a few more appropriate permutations:
- Anne Nugent Guignon - Viscountess Needs a Financial Statement First
- Anne N. Guignon - Princess Crazy Like a Fox
- Anne Guignon - Marchioness Gabby Guppie
- Anne Guignon-Kilimnik - Queen Silent Breeze
When I thought about the names, it was immediately clear that Queen Silent Breeze would never fit. I briefly contemplated the name that implied fiscal responsibility since I am now a member of AARP. The others all had an air of truth. But rather than accept the whims of the YaYa site I combined several of my favorites to form my own name: Marchioness Gabby Guppie Who Walks On Water, AKA The Gup Who Walks On Water. I laugh every time I think of this self-contrived appellation.
Now where does the "giggle factor" fit in our professional lives? It fits in the form of support … nothing fancy … just old-fashioned friendship and acceptance. Hygienists are nurturers and people pleasers. Often we are incredibly isolated. We all need safe environments to explore our ideas and feelings. Most of us are women, and women have powerful urges to verbalize. Guys grunt and groan and communicate in monosyllables. On some rare occasions they manage to string a few safe words together to form a sentence or even a paragraph. Women need to tell the whole story, start to finish, often with every forgettable detail. When we verbalize, our thoughts become clearer and our vision gains definition. We leave the experience feeling renewed.
A positive, supportive relationship is the essence of friendship and the foundation for mentoring. Inspiration, creativity, and freedom make the relationship even more exciting. Notice how I felt perfectly free to make up my own YaYa name? I used the name generator as a jumping off point, not as an end.
Through the years I have given a lot of thought to mentoring. Some of my thoughts are active and others rather passive. My mentors have been numerous and I am grateful for every one of them. A decade ago, my wildest dreams would have never led me to view myself as a writer or a speaker. I was stuck in a holding pattern that wasn't emotionally stimulating or intellectually challenging. My mentors were working their magic. They kept pulling me up and pushing me forward vertically. They had a vision for me. This is vertical mentoring.
I am certain that many of you have been a vertical mentor to someone, somewhere. Can you be someone's champion? Don't you just glow when you think of your protégé's accomplishments? Excitement, enthusiasm and energy for both parties are direct results of vertical mentoring. Negativity is banished. The power of support provides a fresh dimension to the concept of win-win.
Mentoring isn't limited to one person pulling the other up or pushing them forward. While vertical mentoring is the usual societal paradigm, horizontal mentoring is a value-added part of a relationship. Do you have a relationship safe enough to spill the beans, tell the truth or prod a friend? If you do, then you have a gold mine.
Horizontal mentoring is as good as relationships get. For example, my female writing buddy and I test our ideas out verbally, generally via cell phones while we're cooking dinner. Once our ideas are down on paper, we send them off via e-mail. We have had many a lively discussion about the "right" word or phrase and generally finish the debate with lots of laughter. We value each other's suggestions and usually agree with most changes. No one ever sees what we have written until the other has signed off. That is how our mentoring friendship has brought us both to a higher level. Each encounter renews us intellectually and emotionally.
Is mentoring only for speakers or writers or people that you know well? I hope not. There is a very special e-mail group for hygienists at the www.amyrdh.com Web site. While most of the readers are just that - readers - a sizable number of hygienists post questions and answers to a wide variety of clinical questions and concerns, which can include anything from product information to getting along with co-workers.
One of the list members expressed her feelings about being a member this way: "For many years I did very little to grow and develop professionally. Now I feel like I have many mentors in the form of 'listeners' and have learned so much from the hygienists who post their experiences, thoughts, and suggestions. The list also helps fill a very important role part of mentoring. Seasoned hygienists can mentor the newer hygienists as they begin their careers."
Practicing clinical hygiene, parenting, writing, speaking and a host of other professional and leisure activities each have unique demands. Dental hygiene is an exacting profession. Mentoring adds richness to our existence. We can mentor our children, our colleagues and even our patients.
It is astonishing how mentoring can empower each of us. If it weren't for my vertical and horizontal mentors and the people I mentor in each dimension, I wouldn't be able to practice with a giggle in the comfort zone. I am grateful for these relationships and opportunities.
Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, practices clinical dental hygiene in Houston, Texas. She writes, speaks, and presents continuing- education courses on ergonomics and advanced ultrasonic instrumentation through her company, ErgoSonics (www.ergosonics.com). She can be reached by phone at (713) 974-4540 or by e-mail at [email protected].