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Why Do Some People Have to Be Difficult?

 By: Dr. Travis Campbell
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Why Do Some People Have to Be Difficult?

I don’t know about you, but as a dentist, I catch myself focusing on the negative. It is a common human trait, but I believe our education enhances this tendency. Dentists are used to fixing problems, so we are trained to seek out the problems. 

I make lunches for my kids every night for the next day, and being kids they often change their mind on what they want to eat. Of course, they never seem to want the same thing. My daughter is easy, she wants food separated so she can put them together on her own (such as the cheese stick in the lunchbox on the right). My son on the other hand tends to be more difficult; he wants his orange peeled and the cheese peeled and melted into his quesadilla.

Now, I could complain about this inconsistency and that it takes a lot longer to make lunches differently. However, what would I really gain from that complaint and focus on the negative side? Instead, I could focus on the positives: my kids eat healthy, these lunches don’t really take that much time to put together, and overall, they are great kids.

Does this sound at all familiar with how situations develop in our offices?

Do you or the team focus on the 5% of negative patients you have in the office, instead of the 95% of patients who you just love to see?

When a case goes less than ideally, do we focus on the failures, or do we instead try to turn it into a learning experience?

Do we speak negatively or positively about a patient’s insurance coverage, because as we all know well enough, most dental insurance pales in comparison to the value of medical insurance?

I don’t know about you, but as a dentist, I catch myself focusing on the negative. It is a common human trait, but I believe our education enhances this tendency. Dentists are used to fixing problems, so we are trained to seek out the problems. And yet, that mindset is completely unhealthy for an office, a leader, and for creating an atmosphere that our teams and patients want to be a part of.

Think about your life and work and at home. How often are you focusing on the negative side of a situation, experience, conversation, relationship, etc.?  What can you do to change that and stay more positive?

The reality is that one of the top aspects to attracting and keeping good team members is maintaining a positive, happy workplace atmosphere. One of the major factors for patient satisfaction is how the team and atmosphere make the patient feel when coming to see us. We tend to gravitate towards others who are positive, which leads to better team culture, higher treatment case acceptance, and an overall more successful life.

It is easy to voice our dislike of dental insurance to patients because it is so frustrating for us to constantly deal with. However, this doesn’t hurt the insurance company at all; in fact, they love it.  When you insert any negative into a treatment plan, it just gives the patient another reason to not move forward.   

“Your lousy insurance company will only pay for $400 of your $1,500 crown.”

All this does is make the patient question why insurance is so bad, instead of focusing on the fact that they need the crown regardless of coverage. Turning this language around to be positive will help your case acceptance with patients.

“Great news, your insurance company will pay $400 towards your crown!” 

We must remember, no matter how bad the insurance coverage is, it is still coverage that the patient would not have without the policy. That is $400 more than they would have without the policy, even if the average policy might pay $700. Focus on the positive of the $400, not the loss of the $300 potential! 

Overall, remember it is not about the insurance company. When we focus too much on insurance, we are indirectly coaching patients to do the same. This is also one reason we "think" patients care so much about their insurance coverage, because we are coaching them to do so. Instead, we should focus on the necessity of treatment and insurance is just one form of partial payment for that treatment.

So how can you “shift” your negative mindset habit into a more positive one? Think about the most recent situation in your work or personal life where something potentially negative happened.  How could you reframe the situation or change your focus to turn into a positive? Like any habit, it takes intentional effort. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Install a tip jar. Add money whenever someone catches you expressing a negative thought. Then use the money to buy a team lunch when it reaches enough (my team loved this one and made sure I followed through).

  • Post “notes” in prominent places as reminders, digital or written.

  • Engage your team, spouse, kids, etc. in a game to help.

  • Discuss with friends, family, or your team on how to reframe situations.

These are just a few examples. The overall goal is to have a more positive life as well as a more successful career. It is less about the people that are difficult, and more about the way we approach each situation and person. We choose whether to be positive or negative, just as we choose whether to pick routes that will lead to success or not.

I choose positive success, how about you?


Dr. Travis Campbell has been a practicing dentist since 2009, after graduating from Baylor University in Waco, Texas and then Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. He is an author, trainer, speaker at dental conferences, a contributor to various online dental communities, and dental coach/consultant. Ever an entrepreneur, Dr. Campbell purchased a second dental practice, in Garland, Texas in the fall of 2019. Having gained a reputation as an expert in the complex area of dental insurance, Dr. Campbell’s new “moniker” is “The Dental Insurance Guy.” From understanding insurance to developing strategies to accelerate practice growth, Dr. Campbell delivers practical, actionable content that dentists and team members can use immediately. He dispels many of the myths and misinformation around today’s dental insurance policies and explains how to navigate the complexities of being an exceptional dentist, business owner, and leader.

For every problem dental insurance creates within an office, there is a solution.  We at the Dental Insurance Guy are here to provide those solutions.  We find ways to help maximize the dental insurance benefits your patients are paying for, while at the same time making it less problematic for you and your team!

Are you ready to significantly reduce your dental insurance frustrations?  Would you like to achieve higher reimbursements, fewer denials, and happier patients?  Check out Dental Insurance Guy, a membership community led by Dr. Travis Campbell. Membership provides you and your team with 24/7 access to up-to-date information about all aspects of today's dental insurance landscape. Get access to insurance basics, live virtual events, on-demand CE, direct guidance, resources and more. 

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