20 Nov 2020  •  Blog, Covid-19, Practice Management  •  5min read By  • Lynn Leach

A simple mental exercise to trigger a positive state of mind

If someone told you that in just three simple steps, you could transform your problems into opportunities, would you? With this easy-to-follow technique from Barry Oulton, Lynn Leach explains how…

‘COVID fatigue’ is a term that’s becoming more mainstream – not only suffered by those who’ve contracted the virus, but for all who are trying to live their lives through the pandemic.

From the point of view of the dental profession, we’re currently working at a time where new and unfamiliar situations crop up every day – if not multiple times a day – which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, tired-out and a little bit low.

A common situation that practices are struggling with currently is the difficulty of communicating through PPE with patients, and how to build rapport despite this barrier. The following three-step technique may help you transform problems into opportunities, simply by processing the situation and changing small elements of your mindset for a more positive outlook.

Barry Oulton is a practising dentist and trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – the study of communication to better understand your own mind and how you communicate with others. He uses this three-step exercise to support his team in adjusting to PPE and to maintain patient relationships.

  1. The problem – the negative approach

When we’re faced with unfamiliar situations in a day-to-day work setting, there is an automatic response to treat them as a problem. Think of the PPE you don as a ‘problem’ – consider how was it was a problem, who was it a problem for and what did it feel like to have this problem?

Words that are commonly associated with the word ‘problem’ lean towards more negative connotations such as a risk of failure, difficulty, worry and stress.

If you regard PPE as a ‘problem’, it increases the likelihood of a stressful experience when you are communicating to your patients due to the negative emotions brought on by the word and can further hinder your effectiveness.

Now distance yourself from the negative connotations and take your mind off the PPE situation – think about anything; the time, a memory, etc. and let go.

  1. The challenge – reframing the situation

This time think of the PPE and communication situation as a ‘challenge’. What is the challenge, who is the challenge for and what do we like to do with a challenge?

Unlike the negative connotations linked to the word ‘problem’, synonyms for ‘challenge’ include accomplish, conquer and strength. These thoughts fundamentally help motivate you, rather than worry you.

The challenge in this PPE scenario is that we want to communicate with our patients during their patient journey and make them feel like we’re taking care of them and putting them at ease.

We all like to overcome challenges to gain that sense of satisfaction that comes with a job well done. When you apply this word to the PPE and communication situation, do you feel more positive about it?

Once you’ve processed this as a challenge, clear your mind again by focusing on something else, the time, the weather, etc.

  1. The opportunity – look on the bright side

Now, take your PPE and communication situation one step further and consider it as an ‘opportunity’. What is the opportunity, who is it an opportunity for, what doors does the opportunity open for possible solutions?

When you see the situation as an opportunity, it may be the case that while there’s not a lot you can do in terms of changing the PPE requirements, there is an opportunity to adapt your patient journey to fit the new circumstances you work under.

Perhaps it will be to add in an extra step before and after an AGP appointment so that there is more time to communicate with the patient clearly to put them at ease and build rapport. Perhaps you will have that lightbulb moment where new and more effective processes become a possibility.

All this can be achieved, simply by taking a moment to reprocess your workplace situation with a slightly different approach and a much more positive outlook.

Set yourself up to succeed by challenging yourself and looking at the positive opportunities in your given situation.

About Barry Oulton

Dr Barry Oulton is a practising dentist, with over 25 years of experience, and lead clinician at the award-winning Haslemere Dental Centre. Barry is also a Master of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy, and runs the ‘The Confident Dentist Academy’ which was created to help dental professionals learn effective communication skills and selling with integrity so they can have more impact and make a bigger difference, both professionally and personally.


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