03/24/2014 02:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wholehearted Commerce

I had the most remarkable and meaningful experience recently... at the dentist. That's right! I had a meaningful experience at the dentist. And it was quite a surprise.

Dreaded Dental Work

To me, dental work is in the same category as colonoscopy (which actually, I've never had, but I've heard of it and it sounds awful). While I wouldn't classify myself as clinically dental phobic, let's just say that after my appointment yesterday, my dentist may need to replace his arm rests. (And by the way, my arms were not resting.)

Like I do for most things in my life that aren't perfect, I blame my parents. (Just kidding, Mom). When I was about 10 or 11, I went to the dentist after a long absence. I had 13 cavities. I was young enough that I thought if I brushed better, they would go away. It was my first real experience with the permanent consequences of my behavior.

No Pain, No Gain?

The dental work that followed was truly painful. I have a very small mouth and that dentist had really big hands. And he would say, "Now Alison, just raise your hand if you're in pain." And I would raise my hand and nothing would change. And then I'd raise my hand higher, nothing. By the end of the appointment, I was like Horschak from Welcome Back, Kotter. (I know, I'm dating myself). My hand would be at the ceiling and I'd be saying "Oh, oh, oh" and he'd still be drilling away. The meaning that I made from this was that my pain didn't matter.


Typography by clockblock (

A Caring Hand

My recent dental experience was completely different. As soon as the dental procedure began, the dental assistant reached down and held my hand. She didn't ask me if I wanted it, she just did it. And that simple gesture of caring touched me so deeply that I almost wept. The hand I was offered reminded me that I was not alone, that I was connected to caring people and that my pain did matter.

How courageous that was of her, to offer her hand so wholeheartedly. How she allowed herself to be vulnerable so that I would be less alone. She did, I think, what Brene Brown would call Daring Greatly and she inspired me to risk more to show others how much I care.

The Commerce of Wholeheartedness

While it was the dental assistant who held my hand, I felt the same virtual hand-holding from the rest of the staff. The entire organization has created a culture of wholeheartedness that wraps around their patients and holds them in their caring hands. I felt truly cared for by everyone. As long as I live in the area, I won't go anywhere else for dental work and I'm planning on taking my son there next. And I'll recommend the provider to everyone in my network.

I Dare You

What are you daring? In your life? In your business? How are you showing your caring to the people around you? Your customers? Your employees? Your neighbors? Your colleagues? What would be possible if you and everyone in your employ were wholehearted and risked vulnerability to care for your customer? If you get there, let me know. I've got business for you.