The power of positivity within the practice



The power of positivity within the practice 1

Every day in your practice you are influencing people positively and being influenced yourself without realising it, says Barry Oulton.

You know what it’s like when you walk in on a Monday morning and ‘negative Nora’ starts moaning about her weekend. It’s not always easy to allow her negative emotions to bounce off you. But, did you realise that biggest influencer on you is, in fact, you?

Your mindset can influence whether you are successful or not, and whether your patients follow your advice or not.

Your mindset is like a pair of glasses that you put on and take off all day without knowing that you are doing it. Those ‘mindset glasses’ can be rose-coloured, dirty or broken.

For example, think for a moment, ‘the world is a dangerous place’. Put on a pair of imaginary glasses with that mindset and look around your environment.

Notice what you see, hear and sense with the mindset of ‘the world is a dangerous place’.

You will have perceived things that fit into that mindset – trip hazards, fire extinguishers, electricity risks etc.

Take those glasses off and this time put on a fresh, bright pair with the mindset of ‘the world is full of beauty and love’.

Take another look around your environment and take notice of what you see, hear and sense this time.

Now, please note that your environment hasn’t changed at all and yet what you focus on and observe has.

This time you will see, hear and feel things that fit into ‘the world is full of beauty and love’ – smiling people, connectivity, family, community, electricity for light and heat, and so on.

Your mindset determines what you focus on; in the first example you didn’t notice the positivity, beauty and love, even though it was there.

The necessity of positivity

So, how does this help you in your daily life as a hygienist or therapist? Well, if you have a mindset such as ‘patients don’t floss’, ‘they never follow my advice’, ‘I can’t get them to clean interdentally’,  ‘it’s hard to get patients to do what I want them to’ – what do you think you will notice, see, hear and sense?

These mindsets are like beliefs. Whether they are positive or negative, you are right because it’s what you will focus on.

What you focus on, you get more of; it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative. So, your first step in becoming a great influencer is to start by influencing yourself. Begin your day with a positive mindset, set your intention for the day.

This is nothing new, and the concept dates back to 1890. In his book The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, William James wrote a simple statement that’s packed with meaning: ‘My experience is what I agree to attend to.’

Consider these positive mindsets:

  • ‘I positively influence my patients’
  • ‘I improve my patients’ health’
  • ‘They follow my advice’.

With these positive mindsets, you will have a much greater chance of influencing your patients.

When you combine a good mindset with influential language, rapport and an understanding of how each patient communicates with themselves and what motivates them, you can become unstoppable.

Principles of persuasion

There are six principles of persuasion, explained by Dr Robert Cialdini in his book Influence – the psychology of persuasion. These are:

  • Reciprocation
  • Commitment and consistency
  • Social proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity.

If I want to influence a patient to use a product, I use a collection of influencing tactics to increase my chances of success in supporting him/her.

Firstly, I will ensure that I am in rapport, which taps into Cialdini’s ‘liking’ principle. We are more influenced by people we like or are more like ourselves. Rapport is all about being more like the other person, using a similar voice tone, volume, pace and intonation.

Secondly, I want to find out the patient’s ‘why’: ‘Tell me Mr Smith, what’s important to you about your teeth over the next 20 years or so?’

The answer is what I will use to feed back as the reason I want him to floss, for example. Mr Smith would reply with something like: ‘Well, I want to make sure I have my own teeth and they are healthy’.

Asking this question also reveals the way Mr Smith is motivated. Whether he is motivated to avoid something, such as losing his teeth, or motivated to achieve something, like keeping his teeth.

This ‘direction filter’ is important for his motivation. If I was to tell Mr Smith that flossing will prevent him losing his teeth, it would have little effect compared to me telling him that flossing will ensure he keeps his teeth. Do you see the difference? Its wisdom is subtle yet massively influential.

There’s so much more to influence and yet if you just start with the above, you will improve your results!

For further details about Dr Barry Oulton and The Confident Dentist Academy, visit

This article first appeared in Oral Health magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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