Laura is a sweet, demure, lovely woman in her 50’s with beautiful silvery hair and a passion for making women feel beautiful and empowered. You can imagine that the minute I met her as a new patient in my orthodontic practice I instantly felt a kismet connection with her and knew that we would hit it off!
She had been running events to empower moms at a very popular venue in Maine and when COVID hit she had to pivot her business to more on-line platforms. ZOOM had been the mirror to remind her that she wasn’t 100% confident in one area of her life: her smile. As any self-empowered woman would do, she sought out a solution and thus ended up in my New Patient Exam Room – as I would understand it, by no accident. The universe had led her here.
My story about Laura is not about how connected we were, however, it is about the day, 1 year into her beautifully progressing alignment of her smile, that she threatened action against me. It wasn’t clear what that “action” would be but the malcontent in her email was clear – she was not happy.
My ego and defenses charged into action when Laura’s complaints hit me – seemingly from left field. Honestly, I thought everything was going splendidly! Her smile was looking fabulous, we were staying well on target with treatment time, we addressed all her concerns any time they came up, and she and I connected on a personal level every time she came in. I had done everything right. My ego knew that to be true. I stood in my strength and in my conviction of it. Seriously, not one step was out of line- we (I) had done everything right and with good intention.
And then I remembered to breathe.
The moment I closed my eyes and slowed down long enough to breathe I allowed myself to step out of my own defenses and fears. I let judgment fall away. I released judgment of my patient, of my team, of myself. I allowed and accepted the situation for what it was and I let go of needing to be right. I took another breath and let go of the urgency I had bubbling in my belly. I breathed it out.
Perspective came clear. I had done everything beautifully for Laura. My team had done everything well for Laura. Our informed consent forms were well written and well presented. Our team listened and made appointments to suit Laura’s schedule. Her smile was getting closer and closer to her dream. And she was unhappy. I could let that be true. I erased my emotionally charged, reactive email response and offered to meet with Laura in person to hear her concerns.
What followed was a beautiful conversation with Laura during which I listened and BREATHED. I consciously regulated my own nervous system and allowed Laura to be heard. That was it. She just wanted to be heard! She wanted me to know how difficult this was and how frustrated she was with the process. And that was it! No more. Once she felt heard it was all over. I gave her her next aligners and she happily walked out the door.
When you take a deep, intentional breath you allow yourself to step out of the urgent fight or flight response and welcome your parasympathetic nervous system to take the lead. Operating out of your parasympathetic nervous system gives you the freedom for creative problem solving without emotional reactions. It also gives you greater perspective. You realize that it usually isn’t about you.
How many angry litigation threats would you be able to avoid by simply taking a deep breath and allowing your patient to simply be heard?