When I first went into business for myself I had to meet with a lot of different service providers in order to get everything set up; people from banking, legal services, insurance providers, suppliers, and so on. I can’t say the meetings were all that fun, but they went smoothly enough and I learned a lot as the process went on. It wasn’t until I was in business for a short while that I got in touch with an accountant to help with the bookkeeping and taxes. This is something I should have done right away, but I will admit it was the one I was least looking forward to.
Why would this be? It’s just tracking expenses and balancing columns, right? The truth is the accounting end of the business was the part that I knew the least about. I had taken some accounting classes in college, but it was all debits and credits and no practical application. Socrates once said “The one thing I know is that I know nothing.”* Ever the master of paradox he was, but I guess that would have described my situation pretty well, even if somewhat generously.
The meeting went more or less as I had expected, there were some things I knew, some things I didn’t, and a lot of things I didn’t know I didn’t know, and that’s probably what frightened me the most. It’s hard to admit you don’t know something, and then to ask for help from an expert. Doing so can leave one feeling vulnerable and at risk of being judged. It is this aversion to judgment that I believe is the number one fear of dental patients; more than pain, more than expense.
I remember an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ where a sign outside the Springfield dental clinic reads “No matter how you’re flossing you’re doing it wrong.” It’s classic ‘Simpsons’ humor, and as with any successful comedy, the jokes all have a grain of truth to them. There probably is a significant portion of the population that views dental teams as bossy and lecturing, but heaven forbid we’re viewed as judgmental. Even if only a small percentage of dental offices are belittling patients with a judgmental tone, I see it as a black eye on the profession and the rest of us have to work that much harder to change the perception.
Let’s leave the judging to those who are highly trained to do so: judges. For the rest of us, an approach of respect and professionalism is the right way to go. As for my accountant and me, we’ve become good friends and he is now a patient in the practice.
* Historians now believe this quote has been mistakenly attributed to Socrates by his pupil, Plato.