Pearly Whites

I‘m headed to the dentist today. I don’t enjoy visiting the dentist. However, as a Sweeney, dental care isn’t just prudent, it is a moral imperative. My mother had dental issues in her youth, and made proper dental care her mantra when we were growing up. Any sentence relating to teeth was typically punctuated by my mom saying, “It’s so important for you kids to take care of your teeth. You don’t want to have to go through what I went through…” Well, it must have worked; all five of us have decent teeth, and a firm commitment to keeping them in good order. I have a super-nice dentist, in whom I have great confidence. The hygienist could not be any nicer; she always asks about my family, and also takes care of my wife and kids. As dental practices go, this one seems to have everything you could ask for. But I still don’t like going. The bottom line is I need to maintain my teeth, and I would deal with going even if I didn’t like the dental care team as much as I do. When was the last time you heard of a massage client who didn’t like her therapist, but went anyway? I never have. Massage and bodywork sessions aren’t like trips to the dentist, cholesterol checks, acute medical care, or even physical therapy. I’m not looking for a friend at these places; I need professional expertise. I appreciate finding someone I don’t mind spending time with, but I am looking for competence first and foremost. When visiting a massage therapist, I view personality and attitude as important parts of the competence I expect. One of the challenges of explaining massage therapy to the uninitiated is underscoring the fundamental intimacy of the work. As a client, it’s difficult to embrace that intimacy if you don’t respect or feel comfortable with your therapist. If I had cancer, I’d want a doctor who was well-regarded and knowledgeable; if he or she was a jerk, I’d live with it (hopefully, right?). One of the important issues we talk about in this profession is the need for boundaries; therapists should not carry extra emotional baggage for their clients (or unload it on them, either). But a big part of being successful in a service-oriented business is generating a personal connection with your clients or customers. It CAN be done while maintaining appropriate professional and personal boundaries. A couple months back in this blogumn I asked, “Do you love your clients?” Today the question is, “Do your clients love you?”
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