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Episode #608: 17 Summers & Emotional Intelligence In Dentistry, With Dr. Nader Sharifi


There is so much opportunity to connect, whether with your kids, your team, or your patients. But if you don’t take those opportunities, time will pass you by! To help you capture those moments and make lasting connections, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Nader Sharifi with tips for improving emotional intelligence, emotional intimacy, and creating better connections with the people who matter most. To learn how to slow down time in and outside of your practice, listen to Episode 608 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Watch Dr. Sharifi’s Master Class – Implants and RPDs: A Challenging Combination

Read The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

Main Takeaways:

Create safe spaces for yourself and others.

Ask others how you can best support them.

Find ways to help you with self-regulation.

Have someone you can trust and talk to.

Remember the acronym, WAIT.

Go see a therapist!


“You use those 16, 17, 18 summers to get the boomerang to come back. When that child graduates from college and they look at their opportunities, if one of their opportunities includes coming back home — some people might view that as a negative. Others view that as a positive. But if nothing else, it’s an opportunity on both sides of that to say, now we have an opportunity to have some time together. We have an opportunity to impart more wisdom, to learn more, connect more. There’s opportunity on the positive. If that kid didn’t enjoy those 16 summers, that opportunity might not be there.” (6:14—6:54) -Dr. Sharifi

“[Dr. John Cranham] said, ‘Say no to meetings on Saturdays and Sundays.’ After that, I had one lecture on a Sunday. I’ll never forget it. It was a huge room. There are a thousand chairs. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is going to be amazing!’ And like, 11 people showed up. I left my family to do all that. And what you learn in those moments is, somebody is trying to help you.” (8:50—9:12) -Kirk

“I was in a class a couple of weeks ago, and the speaker was talking about connecting with patients and was adamant, ‘Don’t talk about yourself. You’re wasting time. Whenever you talk about yourself, you’re missing the opportunity to learn about your patients. That’s a huge mistake. Don’t do that.’ I thought about that, and I couldn’t agree. I was disagreeing. I’m not saying I couldn’t agree more — I was disagreeing. I’ve had patients give me wedding gifts, birthday gifts. I had patients buy me gifts when my children were born. It shocked me to start to receive gifts from my patients. I get letters from my patients, and that’s a shock as well. But when they go out and purchase something for me after having paid me for doing these services — really stood out. And those came because they got to know me. Those came because of that relationship, and I could know them. If they know nothing about me, they wouldn’t be participating with me in that way. And so, I do think that there’s an absolute necessity that that speaker was sharing with me that I need to get to know my patient. But at the same time, I should be sharing with them who I am so that if I’m going to be able to have this emotional, intelligent connection with them, I’m affording them the opportunity to have it back with me.” (10:52—12:33) -Dr. Sharifi

“I’m not an endodontist. An endodontist sees the patient one time, maybe a post-op. There’s one hour with them, and they’re done. For me, as a prosthodontist, and for all the general practitioners out there, we’re in this for the long haul, and getting to know these patients well is really important and beneficial to them.” (12:34—12:56) -Dr. Sharifi

“We have that opportunity [to connect] numerous times a day when every patient sits in our chair. We have that opportunity numerous times a day when we go into the hygiene room and check a patient. One of the key elements of emotional intelligence is the first five minutes we spend with someone. Well, what if you only get five minutes with them? That hygiene exam from hello to goodbye is around five minutes. And so, if we do not express that we are engaged with them, that we are present for them, that we have empathy for them, we have knowledge about them but we want to learn more, we’re failing in that five minutes of being able to make that connection and make them want to schedule that next visit to see us again in another three, four, six months and return and do this all over again.” (16:42—17:37) -Dr. Sharifi

“[Patients] don’t have to come to my office. They drive by numerous other dentists before they park and come to my office — and that’s true for all of us. There are enough dentists out there. We do not see patients that only live next door. They drive by other practices to come to ours. We should never forget that.” (17:38—17:59) -Dr. Sharifi

“A mistake I made was I thought that having deep, complex, and in-depth knowledge of the history was more important than the now. I thought that that was a big deal. I learned that that’s certainly helpful, but more important than me knowing about that patient’s three-years-ago history is me knowing what’s happening right now. And so, rather than walking in with something that’s very intricate and involved and shows that I know who they are, walking in and saying, ‘So, what’s 2023 meaning for you so far?’ even if they’ve heard it from me before, they’re like, ‘Well, I got a new job.’ And all I need to do is, ‘Tell me about that.’ All I need to do is ask that one simple question to let them open up more about that. It’s not for me to think, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember when I got . . .’ I need to be able to share more, to get deeper into that first peeling of the layer of the onion.” (18:21—19:41) -Dr. Sharifi

“We built our office with our sinks in front of the patient so that I could talk to them while I washed my hands and use that as a part of my five minutes with them. I didn’t want to be washing my hands behind their back where they couldn’t see me. I wanted to do it directly in front of them and interact with them so I can turn, and create eye contact with them, and express my facial expression, ‘Wonderful! A new job? Tell me about that,’ and see how they light up and go.” (20:05—20:35) -Dr. Sharifi

“Certainly, it’s very beneficial in that first five minutes with our hygiene patients when we start our restorative procedures, but also with our staff, that first five minutes with our staff. I’ve got a chronically late staff member. I tell her, ‘You miss out. You miss out on that first five minutes because we’re in huddle, and you come in late, and nobody gets to connect with you. We never get to hear about what your day was like. We don’t get to find out what your dinner was last night. We’re already past that. That first five minutes is gone when you show up late.’ But that’s the negative side. The positive side is everybody else, when you see them, that’s our opportunity to reconnect.” (22:44—23:29) -Dr. Sharifi

“Adding vulnerability and adding safety is increasing empathy levels. This is a little bit deeper than maybe some would be comfortable doing with their patients, per se. But if we can do that with our staff, absolutely, you can do significant relationship building. And we should all be doing that with our spouses, absolutely. Emotional intimacy levels of showing vulnerability and being available to them and their needs is really important.” (26:10—26:49) -Dr. Sharifi

“One of our great coaches here, her name is Miranda. She gave us an acronym. The acronym is WAIT. You guys should use it. Why Am I Talking? We should use that acronym all the time, because sometimes I’m talking just to get attention to me. Sometimes, I’m talking just to divert the energy. Sometimes, I’m talking just because I want to hear my own voice. Sometimes, I’m talking because I have the solution.” (29:42—30:07) -Kirk

“I have one very good tip for self-regulation. My self-regulation improved dramatically when I treated my sleep apnea 15 years ago. Because I was getting bad sleep, I was irritable. When my sleep improved, my irritability went way down. My ability to manage my own emotion is way more important before I could try and understand anybody else’s emotion. What’s the phrase? You cannot be loved until you love yourself. Something along those lines. It’s the same thing. You can’t understand someone else’s emotions if you can’t control your own. Because your own are clouding you so much, it’s difficult to figure out what’s happening around you.” (30:56—31:40) -Dr. Sharifi

“Some of the other things you talk about is, you work out, you earn your shower, you burn off excess energy in those ways. Whatever you can do to create the calm environment of yourself is the way to be able to self-regulate a little bit better. And then, the more we learn about emotions, the more we learn about our staff — I learn about my employees, and what keeps them from getting in and out of the door, and what stresses them at the end of the day, and how they want to get home, and what they’re facing when they get home. One of my staff members, her husband travels. When he’s around, she’s chill. When he’s gone, she’s extra stressed — and that impacts us. Well, my understanding of that for her helps me to know, who’s around this week, who’s not around. And so, there are multiple influencing factors for us to use this emotional intelligence and help us run our office with our staff, run our practice with our patients.” (33:09—34:13) -Dr. Sharifi

“Brené Brown, who is probably one of the best speakers in the world, at the ADA, if you heard her speak, she gave this nugget to everybody in the audience. There were thousands of people in the audience. She said, ‘One of the best things you can do with the people around you is to do a quick check-in. And the quick check-in ends like this. What does support look like from me today?’ I love that . . . If I were to support you, what would that look like? What does support from me today look like to you? Because I might have an idea, but you might say, ‘No, I just need you to give me a little space. A little pat on the back might help. I might need a little time,’ because we can’t assume. And just by asking the question, it sets the conversation up for a whole different level of understanding.” (34:23—35:21) -Kirk

“Why aren’t we, as dentists, seeking more therapy? We’re on an island. We’re alone. We’re working in a wet, dark environment where everything fails. The best dentists in the world — their dentistry will fail. The patient lives long enough that that dentistry won’t last. It’s going to fail. So, under this environment, who wouldn’t need a little bit of extra support? So, Brené Brown, great resource. Reading and doing self-therapy, wonderful first step. Speaking to a therapist, excellent. You can do it via Zoom from your kitchen, for God’s sake, from now on. You don’t even need to go into the office to go where you want to go and meet with somebody.” (37:00—37:45) -Dr. Sharifi

“Therapy is an awesome benefit to so many different people because self-talk is the worst kind of talk. Some experts agree that 80% of self-talk is negative. You never self-talk like, ‘Hey, I love myself.’ No, you’re constantly in a negative space. And I’ll tell you, as a person who talks a lot to himself, if you don’t talk to someone, it bubbles up. It bubbles out of your mouth.” (38:34—39:05) -Kirk

“Whether it be a coach, a therapist, a leadership team, you have to have somebody where you can talk or, I will tell you, that conversation goes around in your head, and it only becomes more toxic garbage. You have to have a release of that.” (39:13—39:31) -Kirk


0:00 Introduction.

1:50 Dr. Sharifi’s background.

4:04 How many summers do you have left?

7:22 Why emotional intelligence is important for dentistry.

18:00 The importance of the first five minutes.

25:14 Create safe spaces.

26:49 The challenges of self-regulation.

29:20 Tips for self-regulation.

34:14 How you can best support others.

35:25 We can all use some therapy.

40:14 More about Dr. Sharifi and how to get in touch.

Dr. Nader Sharifi Bio:

Having earned a certificate in prosthodontics, Dr. Sharifi is a refined general dentist with advanced training in the restorative aspects of dentistry. He received his DDS degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, then continued his education to earn a certificate in prosthodontics from Northwestern University Dental School. Dr. Sharifi also earned a master’s degree in dental biomaterials from Northwestern University.

Dr. Sharifi is a nationally recognized dental instructor on the topics of dental implants, full and partial dentures, overall patient care, and restoring root canal-treated teeth. He travels every other Friday to study clubs, associations, and dental meetings where he has presented several hundred lectures internationally and nationally, reaching nearly every state. Dr. Sharifi was named to the select American Dental Association (ADA) National Speakers Bureau in 1996. In 2007, he received the coveted Gordon J. Christensen Lecturer Recognition Award for excellence in teaching and loyalty to the profession.

Dr. Sharifi has been honored with membership in the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry and American College of Dentists. He is active in the Chicago Dental Society, the Illinois State Dental Society, and the ADA – where he served for more than a decade on the Council on Dental Practice. Dr. Sharifi also is a member of the American College of Prosthodontics, for which he has chaired the Committee on Dental Insurance and Managed Care. For more than ten years, he has participated as a member in the Northern Illinois Dental Specialty Study Club, and recently joined as a charter member of the Seattle Study Club of Oak Brook.

Outside of the office, Dr. Sharifi spends the majority of his time with his family. He has three amazing daughters whose exploits on stage keep him busy and proud. He loves to read novels and will ask about what you’re reading when you arrive with a book in hand. Dr. Sharifi enjoys hiking, skiing, and – because he has only daughters, was raised with only sisters, and works in a dental office with only women – likes to attend car shows and photograph the beautiful restorations to spend time with some of the guys. 

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.