Pennwell web 120 165


May 10, 2010
Rebecca Claunch, RDH, urges dental hygienists to reconnect with the people they encounter in their lives, and share some accountability for those interactions.

By Rebecca A. Claunch, RDH, BS

Living anonymously negatively impacts life and lessons in living. Our world has become one where we all live within a very small circle of friends, family, and co-workers, promoting a sense of living in a bubble or a force field, fending off any likelihood that daily human encounters might occur. We text messages, e-mail inquiries, leave voice mail, drive cars with tinted (blacked out) windows, listen to music blaring loud enough to be heard outside the car, walk around like zombies — living out our lives from behind a “wall” of anonymous invisibility. Human beings were meant to connect with each other and technology has created a human race disconnected as a whole.

We do not know our neighbors. We drive home to open the garage door remotely, without leaving the car, driving inside the garage entering our homes, never seeing anyone in our own neighborhood. Answering machines, voice mail, computer networking/social sites, working with large groups of people that we never truly know and conducting business through semi-interpersonal interactions from behind a veil of superficial anonymity are all causes of “disconnectedness.”

No longer do we spend time talking “over the back fence” to neighbors. Spontaneity in personal daily interactions with strangers seems reduced to a falsehood of insincerity. We act a certain way when we feel observed and then act another way anonymously. Personal character has been described as what you do when no one is looking. How do you act when no one is looking?

Humans as a whole do not practice courtesy or common sense in daily interactions. Shopping carts and vehicles have become battering rams, line-jumping is common, doors are not graciously held open and they slam shut on others, cars zoom through parking lots (you are safe, warm, and comfortable inside a car; people walking outside should be given first priority), and honking horns while cars attempt to back out of a parking space from between huge SUVs is common and dangerous. Eye contact and common courtesy seems nonexistent. They act as if no one else is present in their world. Feeling powerful and anonymous behind the wheel sparks bad driving behavior toward others and is acted out due to lack of accountability; road rage is fueled by anonymity. When you do not have relationships with people outside your small circle of family and acquaintances, and do not feel accountable to anyone, civility and common courtesy toward strangers becomes nonexistent.

I know of an RDH who gave the “one finger” salute to someone in a car on her way to work, arrived in the office, only to find that person sitting in the waiting room, scheduled as her first client for the day. That moment identified her as the one with bad behavior while she was feeling anonymous and unaccountable, prompting her to believe that she could treat others she did not know with complete disrespect over something as trivial as a perceived driving offense.

That was a defining moment for her. Being “found out” caused such painful embarrassment due to her repugnant interaction with that person (to which she was about to provide a service) that her interactions in life were forever changed.

When we to come face to face with each other, look each other in the eye, speak directly to one another, and accept responsibility for our behavior, attitudes suddenly change. Looking another in the eye is an indicator of true intention. The reality of dealing with human beings becomes meaningful. A man’s word used to be the mark of his honor. Sealing a deal with a handshake carried weight, meaning character and honor were displayed between two people. That display “sealed a deal” because personal interaction indicated each person’s true intentions and integrity toward one another.

In the world today, we fax, e-mail and conduct dealings from behind a wall of shrouded anonymity. Discernment, common sense, courtesy, empathy, respect, truth, and honor are underdeveloped in this society due to very little one-on-one personal interaction. Dealing with others directly teaches lessons regarding the ability to recognize a person’s character and countenance. It is not possible to know much about another person from behind a glass wall, computer screen, voice mail, or phone. How are your character, honor, integrity, and honesty shaped in a world where you are not required to deal face to face with people in daily living?

Acknowledge others, walk with your head up, and make eye contact. Remove ear-buds and big dark sunglasses while speaking to them. Halt the incessant chattering on the phone while in public. Take time to be yourself and experience the world fully through personal interaction. Speak and acknowledge others properly. Replying to “thank you or “excuse me” with “you’re OK” or “no problem” is not a proper response. Do not be afraid to make the effort toward courtesy and good manners.

Practice makes perfect and is worth the effort. Smile, let someone else be first, listen and respond, get your head out of the sand, and begin to address the world of those around you. Humans want to feel significant. Treating others just as you want to be treated can be empowering and exhilarating. Exemplary behavior makes you and the other person feel worthy. Remember the next time your behavior is less than courteous, you might have to become accountable to someone you know or who may know you. What do you project and how are you perceived?

When you stop living as if invisible in the course of simple daily life, personal interactions impart opportunities to gain knowledge and social skills. Become addicted to living life as a real human being and stop living anonymously. Be a person worth knowing and consider that it may impact your life positively!

Rebecca Claunch, RDH, BS, graduated from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Dentistry, Division of Dental Hygiene in 1982. This article is a posthumous publication, since the author passed away in February 2010.