BY JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD
Recently, I participated in a faculty retreat with the dental hygiene faculty at Idaho State University. We had two days of meetings to plan for the academic year for both the undergraduate and graduate programs. I always find these meetings stimulating and look forward to them because they help to set the tone for the work we will accomplish in the year ahead.
As part of the faculty retreat, our chairperson arranged for us to participate in a faculty development workshop on emotional intelligence, which is our ability to perceive, understand, and manage our emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, defuse conflict, empathize with others, and communicate effectively. Our speaker was from the counseling department, and he helped us see how we need to consider our emotional intelligence as well as that of the staff and students with whom we work. He emphasized that this aspect of our lives is often missing or not well developed, but the impact of emotional intelligence can be profound.
As part of the process of this workshop, our speaker had us each inflate two balloons. Then, we had to keep them in the air for a given period of time. Our balloons were all over the place. He asked us to do the same exercise again, but this time to slow down and think about what we were doing before we began the activity. Even though we still had a few mishaps, we were more inclined to exercise greater control of our balloons. The point of the exercise was to remind us to slow down, reflect, and then act as opposed to reacting.
Obviously, I cannot relate all that we learned about emotional intelligence in this column. However, I do want to share with you two other things we discussed that may be of interest to you.
First, we talked about having a mindset for each day as we prepare to walk into our workplace. We decided that rather than coming to work dreading all that will be in front of us, we should enter the door with the notion: "I wonder what adventure we will face today." Notice the emphasis is on adventure vs. dread, and on "we" recognizing that we are working together to accomplish an end goal. We are not alone and can choose to partner together to support one another. This mindset helped all of us feel less overwhelmed.
The next thing we agreed to do was to encourage the heart. This concept comes from leadership literature, but was recognized as something relevant to demonstrate support for one another. Too often, we go about our very busy days without taking a moment to offer a little encouragement to one another. We leave work feeling tired rather than energized. We decided as a group that we would end our days with a brief conversation on how we encouraged the heart that day.
As we ended our first day of the faculty retreat, we took a few moments to reflect on how we encouraged the heart. We found ourselves smiling as we went around the room and talked about something important that happened or something we learned that had an impact on us. It was amazing to see our own transformation in the course of one day. We recognized that we had a lot of work to do in the coming year, but we were excited and felt a sense of support that was not apparent at the start of the day.
I share this experience with you because I know we all get into the grind of daily life and work and often forget the many joys of the day. We become overwhelmed by the circumstances of the moment and easily agitated by those patients who are running late, by equipment not working properly, by the staff or our employers who become neglectful or confrontational. I doubt we slow down and reflect before reacting. Maybe this column will be a reminder that we can pause in those moments of distress and ground ourselves. And, for those moments that seem less than desirable between our boss or staff, perhaps we need to offer a bit more to encourage the heart. We all need support, and those small kindnesses go miles in helping us feel important.
Before we know it, the holidays will be upon us and we will be even busier than usual. Try practicing a moment to slow down and reflect before reacting to those moments we all know will happen. Adjust your mindset to establish the tone for the day. And, most importantly, take time to encourage the heart. Let's grow! RDH
JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.