Feb. 21, 2011
Kristine Hodsdon, the director of RDH eVillage, applies the concept of emotional intelligence to the dental hygiene profession.

Hope. Mindfulness. Compassion. These terms may sound like the elements of a marriage encounter, but they are also at the heart of the emerging concept of “relationship management.”

The term resonant leader was popularized in a 2002 book titled Primal Leadership, written by Daniel Goleman, father of the concept of emotional intelligence, along with emotional intelligence researchers Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

Since then, Boyatzis and McKee have continued their research; they have come up with recommendations for what it takes to achieve and sustain resonant relationships — not just in the dental practice, but also within our family and social groups.

Leadership as relationship

As hygienists, we can develop our emotional intelligence to connect with and sustain relationships with patients and colleagues. Drawing from the research in this field, a great hygienist is not a person; “it’s a relationship.”

Battling the sacrifice syndrome

Sustaining this level of resonant hygiene can be challenging with the stress of our demands — both in the practice and outside. If hygienists do not attend to themselves, then they can slip into what Boyatzis and McKee call the “sacrifice syndrome.”

The sacrifice syndrome is a vicious cycle that can start someone down a path of burnout. There are numerous physical manifestations, including gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. However, more importantly, burnout leads to dissonance, not resonance. Retaining the ability to resonate with your patients, practice, and profession requires particular attention to three areas:

  • Mindfulness. This critical skill deals with maintaining awareness of not only what is going on inside yourself, but also to what is going on around you.
  • Hope. Hope can be a profound source of positive thoughts and emotions.
  • Compassion. Resonance, ultimately, requires caring about other people; in that sense, it depends fundamentally upon our capacity for compassion. By caring enough about people to try to figure out who they are and why they behave the way they do, the dissonant defenses of prejudice and pre-judgment (non-complainant, difficult and or PIA patients) are replaced with the resonant qualities of understanding and tolerance.

“Contrary to popular belief,” Boyatzis and McKee write, “it is not change itself that is so hard; what is hard is being honest with ourselves, looking at ourselves with no filters, and admitting that we need to change.”

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage