Did Joan Rivers influence the dental profession? Yes, and here's how

Two DIQ authors explain the ideas that Joan Rivers contributed for dental professionals

Joan Rivers

Editor's Note: Many of us were sad to hear of the passing of Joan Rivers, but tying her to the dental profession didn't occur to me until not one, but two DentistryIQ authors shared articles regarding what Joan Rivers taught dental professionals. Karen Cortell Reisman and Dr. David Rice feel that Ms. Rivers' wit and wisdom should be embraced by those who treat not just teeth, but the whole person. Read on...

Joan RiversBy Karen Cortell Reisman

Even if you didn’t like Joan Rivers, and even if you thought her humor was in poor taste, you probably felt a loss when she died last week. Why? Joan Rivers was a genius at communicating. How? Let me explain.

1. “Can we talk?”
Rivers’ began many of her routines with her trademark question. She insulted all races, genders, and creeds. But who did she make fun of the most? Herself. While I’m not a fan of negating others, I tell my clients the best place to poke fun is at themselves. That way they offend no one and they appear approachable. People want to talk to them because they’re just another normal person navigating life.
Principle #1: Self-deprecation –
What stories can you tell about yourself? What happened to you that was horrible at the time and is now hysterical?

2. “Who are you wearing?”
Rivers helped patent the pre-award show commentary. With her raspy voice she queried the stars and slammed actors with snarky critiques. As with Principle #1, I do not recommend criticizing your patients and team. But step back and look at her career ­– Joan found her brand and used it consistently.
Principle #2: Brand with consistency
– What’s your brand? How do you convey your story, value proposition, and ROI?

3. “Is this gonna be OK?”
Joan said, “You never relax and say, ‘Well, here I am!’ You always think, ‘Is this gonna be OK?’ I have never taken anything for granted.” Underneath her bravado, fake face, and bawdy humor was a smart, resilient, and tenacious hard worker. Joan never stopped writing, testing, and fine-tuning her work. In her documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” I vividly recall that she was far from a diva. Her desire was to work and work often, whether that was in a fancy venue or a small hotel.
Principle #3: Resilience
– You can’t communicate effectively without the capacity to recover from difficulties. How can you take the challenges in your life and use them as lessons for others? Joan’s life is a tribute to overcoming adversity with her own brand of finesse.

Joan Rivers 2By David Rice, DDS

Have you ever heard NO from a patient and felt defeated? Have you ever taken that no, deposited it in your mental bank, and never brought up that recommended treatment again? If you're anything like me, you thought YES to both of these questions … so I ask, "Is there a better way?"

Yes, there is. "Can we talk?" The simplicity of this question by Joan Rivers is sheer brilliance! Joan Rivers made a lot of people laugh over the years for a lot of reasons. But what does the question we all know her for have to do with dentistry?

Objections from a patient are often perceived as the time to back off, or worse, the time to stop asking. It's so easy to stop talking to patients about the treatment they need when NO is the answer we hear and come to expect. Why do we stop?

Is it fear of rejection? Is it we don't want to be shot as the messenger? Is it that they'll never say yes, so why should we waste our time? That's one side of the coin. What's the other side?

Opportunity! Think about it. Who really presents our greatest challenge? The patients who are willing to share, or the patients who say yes to us with a smile and then never follow through?

Patients who simply try to make us happy so they can slip out the front door are hard to manage because we have no shot. But patients who are willing to share their true feelings have kept the doors of conversation open.Their truth gives us the chance to ask a very important question that just might make all the difference in the world.

What if in response to NO, you asked, "Mrs. Smith, when a patient tells me no, it's usually for one of three reasons – Will it hurt? Can I afford it? or Is it really necessary? Which one of these is it for you?" This is an easy question, it's the truth, and it's just another way of saying, "Can we talk?"

Thank you Joan, for all the laughs and all the wisdom!

Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., is the author of the books and president of Speak For Yourself®.

Dr. David Rice is the founder of ignitedds.com practice management website.

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