What Actors Can Teach Us about Dentistry, Part 2

In my last post, I compared dental coaching with the process of script analysis. However, as I thought about what I had written, I realized that dentists can perhaps draw further lessons from actors. After all, acting is not just a cold, mechanical analysis. It involves passion, empathy, and perhaps most importantly, communication. Below, I take a look at some other acting techniques to see what they can teach us about dental practice goals and how we work in our day-to-day lives as dentists.


In the previous post, I already described how actors must search for objectives. That is, they must determine exactly what they are doing and why at each moment in the script. However, one of the most important components in this process is specificity. For example, “I want to make him feel bad” is a weak objective. “I want to shame him so that he will repent for the harm he did to my mother” is a much better choice. The actor who chooses the second objective will have a stronger, more believable presence on stage or screen.

Specificity is just as important to dentists. When you are defining your life and practice goals, it is important to be as detailed as possible. “I want to see practice growth,” is a fine objective, but it is very vague. Don’t most dentists want to see practice growth? Ask yourself how you in your particular location and financial situation want to improve your business. For example, good objectives would be:

  • “I want to increase the number of patients to meet our base financial need and, if possible, see a 10% revenue growth.”
  • “I want to boost our public reputation by increasing our online marketing campaign and raising the average of our online reviews.”
  • “I want to increase patient satisfaction by adding CEREC® technology and promoting better patient education.”

Because each of these goals is more specific, it is also easier to achieve. You can develop a clear plan and tactics for reaching your objectives.

Listening and Responding

The great acting teacher Sanford Meisner once said, “Acting is not talking; it’s living off the other fellow!” By this, he meant that the greatest actors do not come on stage showing off their emotions. Acting is not about the actor at all. It’s about doing something to affect someone else. An actor must truly look and listen to see if he achieved his objective. If it didn’t, it is time to try another tactic.

The same could be said for you as a dentist. The point of dentistry is not to come into the room showing off your technique. It’s about really affecting those you work with, whether it is your team members or your patients. In order to do this, you must engage in a dialogue with these individuals. If it is your team members, ask them how they believe the practice can grow. Ask them how their lives could be improved through changes in the workplace. Inquire about what your patients really want from their dental treatment. You may think that their top concern is achieving a more attractive smile, when, deep down, they are most concerned about their dental anxiety. Do not simply ask these questions as a courtesy. Really listen. Are you doing everything you can to make these things happen? Maybe you think you are accommodating their needs, but it is not working. If it isn’t, change your tactics!

By being specific about your wants and needs, listening to your patients and team members, and encouraging them to be specific, too, you could see a marked improvement in your practice and personal growth. Although you may never win an Oscar or a Tony for your work, you will be improving the lives of everyone you encounter. As dentists, isn’t that what we strive for most of all?

By | 2017-01-20T01:01:22+00:00 September 15th, 2014|business coaching, dental coaching, practice management|Comments Off on What Actors Can Teach Us about Dentistry, Part 2

About the Author: