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3 Strategies to Help You Say NO!

For all dentists and leaders, there will come a time when conflict arises, and you have to say the word that’s so difficult for so many of us: “No!” We’ve been conditioned to think that always saying “Yes” is a good thing, and while it’s certainly important, agreeing to everything will cause the dam to burst and flood your life with stress. Instead of fearing the “No,” we must learn to embrace it, and in doing so, create a container for the factors that threaten to overwhelm us.

  1. We avoid it because we don’t understand 

The truth is most people avoid having tough conversations because they simply don’t know how to have them. And can you blame them? Difficult conversations aren’t inherently intuitive, and if you don’t handle them correctly, they can become highly emotional. In order to have a factual conversation that avoids emotion,” it’s going to take clarity around your expectations.

  1. E-R=C

Expectations are such a crucial component to managing conflict, as demonstrated by one of my favorite equations: Expectations Minus Reality Equals Conflict. It’s so true in this situation, because if your expectations aren’t clear from the beginning, it’s inevitably going to result in conflict. And as Kirk says, “Unresolved conflict becomes a crisis,” so making sure we minimize it is critical. 

One way of doing so is going all the way back to your employee manual—if there’s an issue that keeps coming up, you probably need to reset the expectations so everyone’s on the same page. The employee manual is the best way of doing so, because ultimately, your teams are looking for boundaries, and when those are clear from the start, it sets everyone up for success.

  1. Learn the components of conversation

Ultimately, when we learn how to have those difficult conversations, they become less frightening, and we don’t feel the need to avoid them. After all, avoided conflict piles up until it erupts into a crisis, potentially damaging your relationship with the team. By including the following components in your conversations, however, you’ll ensure their success:

  • Enter the conversation emotionally stable
  • Have the conversation in private and stay professional
  • Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements
  • Be specific and timely, avoiding stacking several issues
  • Invite feedback 
  • Come to an agreement about what to expect going forward
  • If you establish a date for a review, follow up on it

With these strategies, you won’t feel the need to avoid that dreaded “No” and the conflict it might create—you can move forward confidently with a stronger team.


The better you get at having these difficult conversations and learning to say “No,” the easier it will become. It will create trust with your team. Remember, the first step is creating clarity around your expectations, because once you do that, it will solve a lot of the conflict. You don’t have to do it alone, because ACT is here to help! All you have to do is reach out, and our talented team will help you create the clarity you need to build your Better Practice and Better Life!

Learning how to manage conflict is one of the greatest challenges for dentists and leaders, so to explore this topic even further, tune in next time and learn from Miranda Beeson how to master confident communication! 


Robyn Theisen is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.