A recent simple tooth extraction began a series of increasingly complex events. My dentist said my tooth had an infection under it and should be pulled by an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon and I had a brief consult and then he gave me a local anesthetic. The drug had an adverse effect on me that the oral surgeon missed: I felt overwhelmed and confused. What started as a simple extraction grew. What lessons did I learn?
The first lesson was there is more than meets the eye. The infection was unseen, under my tooth. I thought the infection was gone because it stopped hurting, so I figured the infection was healed. However, the dentist explained to me the tooth stopped hurting because it died. The nerves stopped feeling. My first thought of the tooth healed was wrong. I had selected the story I liked best—the one most appealing and convenient for me. Instead the infection just grew. I was worse. The dead nerves were more than met my eye.
After the local anesthetic, his assistant then gave me the financial paperwork and walked me through post operation instructions. In hind sight I realized I was already beginning to feel drugged. I had a difficult time tracking the assistant’s instructions. By the time the surgeon returned to the room, my perception of him was muddled. After the fact, I realized the surgeon thought that was my normal state as compared to a drugged state. Since the surgeon only had a brief glimpse of my normal affect, he later confirmed he thought I just naturally had a deer in the headlights look. Another lesson learned. It is essential to establish enough rapport to learn who each other is in the transaction and what the plan for the service will be. Then if someone has the deer in the headlights look, you will realize there is a problem.
Next the assistant gave me post operation directions. When I expressed confusion and asked for clarification, she repeated the directions at the same tone and pace as if I had just hit the back button for a replay. Since I heard and understood what I could at that speed the first time, the replay was useless. And frustrating! Later I thought about the purpose of communication—to deliver and have another receive the same information. Many times people do exactly what the assistant did: pass on information without checking for understanding. I am reminded of how many times I have heard the phrase “I told him,” as if that had been the full task.
Communication is a two-part process with the sender and the receiver. My lesson was as a receiver to fully understand and remember what effective communication is. Many times people do what I did—fail to step up to the communication receiver’s responsibility. I could have asked for all the information before starting the procedure. Or I could have brought someone else with me.
Dutifully I bought and took the antibiotics for five days, only to realize my energy was plummeting. I phoned the on-call surgeon. After learning that was the only medication I was taking, he told me to stop taking it. When I went to the follow up appointment and asked about the purpose of the antibiotics, the surgeon told me it was basically industry standard due to litigious reasons. In previous legal suits people complained because they ended up with negative results and blamed their surgeons. My next lesson was to ask about the full purpose of actions or the full purpose of medications.
I could have easily chalked up the whole process as an unpleasant experience. I find value in reiterating the lessons to be sure I benefit from learning. There is more than meets the eye, check deeper. Reach an understanding and rapport with each person and what is going to happen, before beginning the process. Communicate clearly and effectively in all situations which means check for clarity both as sender and receiver. Ask ahead about each piece of the process. Those were my lessons that I hope you can use to smooth the next time you begin a new service engagement. Yes, there are even lessons from a tooth extraction. ©Caron MacLane 2015