When I was a younger dentist, I let everything bother me. An instructor in school would be nasty and I’d hang on to it for ages. A patient or a team member would say something mean or rude and it got under my skin and stayed there. Then I saw an amazing keynote address by Captain Denny Finch.

Captain Finch helped pilot the ill-fated United flight 232 in Sioux City where all hydraulics was lost, yet they were able to save many of the passengers (United Flight 232 Footage). He explained that in a crisis, attitude affects altitude. The more positive your attitude, the more likely you are to keep your wits and survive the problem.

I went back home and became Captain Positive. I tried my best to do everything I could to brush things off, but it’s not easy. “Letting things go” takes practice, especially in a world where we have so many interactions with patients, parents, vendors and other 3rd parties. Especially if you’re newer to the profession, you’re going to be exposed to a lot of interactions that may really upset you. Just let it go…it’s healthier. As I was taught years ago, when someone takes advantage of you or a situation and you let them get under your skin, they win again.

“But it’s not fair. They shouldn’t get away with being a jerk” you say?

Years ago, I had a “C” patient (more on patient classification another time) harass me over a simple occlusal filling. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but he was driving me bananas over a $250 filling and wanted a refund. I did nothing wrong. It was a beautiful outcome and he was treated quite well, yet there he was, asking for an unwarranted refund. Plus, I was newer out of school and every penny mattered.

I did my best to “seek first to understand, then to be understood” but it didn’t help. So, I called my attorney. He was older than me and a lot wiser and asked me one question: “Is it worth $250 to get this person out of your life?” The answer: “Heck yeah.”

I’m no longer surprised about the way people act, but I try to surprise myself with the way I respond. Sure, I still get upset at things because I’m human, but I’ve realized that my mental well-being is worth a lot more than almost anything else. I easily sever toxic relationships, money doesn’t matter as much as goodwill and it’s OK to walk away from an unwinnable situation.

Will Smith said it best in “Just the Two of Us”:
“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let G-d deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.”

Remember, “attitude affects altitude” and I want to keep my practice (and life) flying as high as I can.

All the best,

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