Relationship-Based Experiences Are the Key

It doesn’t really matter how far away you live from someone you love, you still have a bond with them. You can’t see this bond, you can’t measure it in weight or length or volume. Nevertheless, it exists, albeit with varying degrees of strength. Relationships are something that can transcend life. Maybe we still talk to a loved one that has passed on. I know my wife often spoke to the boys in utero, and often recalls experiences she had with her grandmother. I know that dogs and I share a special bond; I feel like I know what they need or want just by looking in their eyes. (Cats just want to take over the world, with or without your help.)

Relationships deepen and enrich our life experiences. I know that our assistant Traci truly desires to have relationship-based experiences with all our patients. To know Traci is to understand the definition of kindness. Upon meeting her for the first time she wants to know as much as she can about you, your family, your needs. She wants to get to your core, and she has a unique and unassuming way of disarming any of your protective mechanisms that might keep you from sharing this information. She remembers birthdays, she writes notes of encouragement, she is committed to a relationship-based experience.

However, do we have deep relationships with everyone we come in contact with? Surely not. When we don’t have relationship-based experiences, we instead have transactional experiences. Transactional experiences require little commitment and often are fleeting in time. Transactional experiences are not a bad thing, in fact we need them to survive. I am suggesting that perhaps we take time to evaluate and classify the experiences we have everyday. For example, I love to go to the McDonalds in Phoenix for a morning Egg McMuffin. I now know Yesenia, Sue (who usually calls me sweetie, and I love it!), Lucero, and Kyle. I catch up with them a little throughout the week, even just going through the drive through! My experiences with them are transactional, but when there’s no one behind me, sometimes we get to chat a bit. Dale Carnegie teaches that the sweetest sound we can hear is our own name. I like to transition transactional experiences to relationship-based experiences.

I do this with my patients as well. While I do have some transactional patients, most of my patients know that I’m probably going to tell some kind of silly joke, or sometimes even try covering the current song being played with some kind of dental-related theme. One of my favorites is, “If you like the way you look that much, well baby, you should go and FLOSS yourself.” The assistants have heard them all, and yet they still seem to come to work each day. I love to have fun. One of my dental colleagues even told me that a patient that used to come to my office left and went to his office because it seemed like I had too much fun at my office. BEST REVIEW EVER!! He was a little sad that his office was considered “less fun.” Yes, we do have a lot of fun.

My hypothesis is: that the difference between transactional and relationship-based experiences perhaps centers on whether we are looking outward or inward. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an introvert/extrovert thing. Do we seek to look and help others or are we instead focusing on our needs and desires? I absolutely believe in self-care, in taking a break, and in appropriate rest. However, if we regularly tend to focus with a heavier balance on ourselves instead of others, I contend that we become victims to transactional experiences. This prevents us from deepening our emotional roots, and instead leaves us with an inability to have more secure, nourishing growth, that eventually allows blossoms and becomes fruit bearing. These fruits are manifested in looking for ways to help build relationships, empathize with people that are mourning, and being able to connect with others. I hope we all take time to evaluate our experiences and try to reach out for others a little more.

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Dr. James Burneson

Our practice is working together to realize a shared vision of uncompromising excellence in dentistry.

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