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The workshop

Being new

OT  poses a monthly scenario from a practitioner. This month, we look at joining a new team with optometrist and mind coach, David Rahman

puzzle piece

The scenario

Matthew, AOP member

“I have been an optometrist for almost 10 years, spending nine of these years working full-time at a multiple practice where I completed my pre-reg. Last year I decided to spread my wings and join an independent practice with a small close-knit team. The environment and team size are very different to what I previously experienced and at times I feel that I struggle to fit in. Do you have any advice on how I could feel more confident about my move?”

The advice

David Rahman, optometrist and mind coach

In cave man times, the ultimate punishment for an individual was not to be sent to a jail, but to be ostracised from their tribe. This would cut off the connection and feelings of significance that we crave.

Essentially, as an optometrist who has moved practice, you have moved from one tribe to another.

The part of the brain that registers fear, worry and doubt is called the amygdala. This resides in the reptilian brain and is responsible for that voice of fear and doubt that exists in all of us.

Having worked in a busy practice for 10 years, and being accustomed to its ways of working, the shift to a smaller, more ‘close-knit’ practice can sometimes induce fear and slight anxiety. These feelings, allied with the notion that you will be judged by the new team, and having to almost ‘start again’ in building relationships within the new practice can feel quite daunting.

Our unconscious mindset is geared towards protecting ourselves against what we perceive as an external threat. In this case, not being accepted into the fold within the new practice.

Having worked in a busy practice for 10 years, and being accustomed to its ways of working, the shift to a smaller, more ‘close-knit’ practice can sometimes induce fear and slight anxiety


Fitting in

So how do we fit into the new practice? Initially, this involves taking ownership and responsibility for the attitude and commitment that we continually demonstrate.

Here are some tools that will assist you to feel more integrated within your new practice:

Nice: Being a nice person is universally liked and sought. We all like to be surrounded by positive and upbeat people, even when they are under pressure. This type of person doesn’t seek to have the last word in a conversation, or to want to dominate conversations. The energy that accompanies someone like this is warm, friendly and sincere.

Smile: It takes more facial muscles to frown than it does to smile. Everyone likes a smile. It indicates friendliness, approachability to your customers and patients, and is duly noted by your new colleagues.

Standards: Impeccable standards such as good time keeping, willingness to support other staff in stressful moments and wanting to provide excellent service to your patients is mandatory at all times.

Reframe: There will be challenging times when you feel like blaming, complaining, judging and criticising something at some point. A gossiping nature or a negative mindset will not endure you to your colleagues. View setbacks as learning moments and disappointments as opportunities for growth. In psychological terms, you are reframing a situation.

Intention: Enter the practice every day with a view to giving an even better service than the day before. When you go to work with positive intentions in your mind such as ‘How can I make a difference to peoples lives today?’ rather than ‘How am I going to survive today?’ will make a vast difference to your demeanor.

Visualise: Visualise yourself being in the workplace and everyone around you smiling and having a pleasant time working. This is the complete opposite of creating ‘worst case scenarios’ in your head. You are activating the prefrontal and visual cortices to create what you would prefer, as opposed to allowing the emotion creating amygdala to manifest negative thoughts and feelings.

Learn: The chances are that there will be people at your new practice with greater experience in optometry than yourself. Having an attitude of someone who is open to learning will make a big difference to how your colleagues view you. Focus on your new job as a ‘blank slate’ and your willingness to be educated in the optimal running of this practice.

Breathe: The calmer you are throughout the day, the more likely you will be able to think more clearly and not get wrapped up in your own mental chatter. You can ‘reboot’ your parasympathetic system by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. Inhale as far as you can go and hold for three seconds. Then exhale for as long as you can. Repeat twice. During anxious or stressful moments, our breathing can become shallow and rapid without us consciously being aware.

As you learn to recognise how each person communicates, you will then be able to adjust your vocal pacing to their level. This will enhance communication and instantly build rapport


A pro-tip

The three modalities of communication are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Visual people use phrases such as ‘I see what you mean,’; auditory people may say ‘That rings a bell,’; while kinaesthetic communicators will use phrases such as ‘I grasp what you’re saying.’ Notice who in your practice fits into which category. Most people are dominant in two out three of the modalities.

As you learn to recognise how each person communicates, you will then be able to adjust your vocal pacing to their level. This will enhance communication and instantly build rapport.

Ultimately ‘fitting in’ to your new practice is a combination of all these elements. In some practices, there may be someone who takes longer than the other staff to adapt and later genuinely welcomes the ‘newbie.’ That may be a result of their own personal insecurities. This luckily is not your problem.

More information

Life and business coach David Rahman is a former optometrist, who now helps optometrists and optometry practices achieve better results through coaching and workshops. For more information, visit the Mind Coach website or email the company.

Image credit: Getty/tadamichi