Change me, help me, change me!

April 1, 2011
It turns out that the best way for a dental hygienist to understand the consumer's feeling about visiting a dental office is to just mention ...

by Mark Hartley
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It turns out that the best way for a dental hygienist to understand the consumer's feeling about visiting a dental office is to just mention that the consultant has landed at the airport and will arrive at the office as soon as the rental car is found, started, and the tires are rolling.

All over America each day, spouses plunge to lower levels of marital communication with this reminder: "Honey, I want to remind you that you have a dental appointment this morning."

Dental hygienists, of course, are enthusiastic about their role in averting oral pain and enhancing facial beauty. So they don't quite understand the reluctance consumers display.

"Mary, the doctor wanted me to remind you that you need to set aside this afternoon to talk with the consultant about saving money in the hygiene operatory. If you need to use the restroom, please do so before the meeting starts."

Now they get it.

As I've written here before, I have stalked (I'm legally allowed to do so as paparazzi/RDH magazine editor) motivational speakers to a location away from the stage. Their lives seem so rich when onstage, cajoling us all into searching for that deeper meaning. You can almost see them smoothly hang-gliding to the grocery store, where a quart of rare milk is purchased en route to the cozy bungalow on the shore of a private lake. They seem so cool, right? When I stalk them to their secret place, however, there's a recliner, a beer, and a sitcom on the television – speakers are just ordinary folks away from the stage.

These potshots at motivational speakers and consultants are easy to do from the safe confines of the RDH office. The truth is that there are motivational speakers who walk the talk, and there's even a greater number of consultants who truly do save floundering groups of talented dental health-care professionals from abject misery.

But I can't shut up. Dr. Christine Whelan, a sociologist who has written two self-help books on marriage, was recently featured on for her doctoral dissertation she did as a student at the University of Oxford. The article led me down an Internet trail where I read her abstract for "Self-Help Books and the Quest for Self-Control in the United States."

Is there a huge difference between self-help books, motivational speakers, and certain dental consultants? Me thinks not.

Dr. Whelan wrote, "Self-help books are a response to a real and genuine hunger for psychological understanding and self-improvement ... the boom in self-help book publishing ... [is a] response to feelings of alienation and anomia."

Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we need a little push to become focused again.

But Dr. Whelan also wrote, "Self-help books are written and advertised to convince readers that change is possible ... Self-help authors sell their messages based on their fame and credentials, and their tools of 'proof' are rhetoric and promises. Despite the lack of peer-reviewed studies or efficacy data for techniques advocated by most self-help authors, psychologists are generally supportive of the books, at least as a first step toward behavior change."

What a racket, eh?

Gosh, how can I better understand the agony a hygienist feels when sitting across the table from a consultant who wants to know how she can save money and be more efficient?

"Hey there. I'm the boss, remember me? I brought you this book to read on how to make all writers feel like a winner, regardless of whether or not they have a third-grade vocabulary. Might help you get some more articles for RDH. By the way, you have a dental appointment in 30 minutes. Don't be late!"

I get it.

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