Why I Fired My Dentist…and How I Did It Assertively

Monish SubherwalResolving Conflict3 Comments

The last couples of weeks have been busy for me.  I had guests from out of town and we had lots of fun travelling, chit chatting, and having a good time together.

When my guests left, it suddenly came to my mind — I have a dentist appointment coming up!  

I scrambled to find my cell phone.  

I didn’t see any missed calls over the past few days.  Phew.  Let me check my voicemail.  

On my voicemail were 2 messages from the dentist’s office.  One reminding me about my missed appointment and the other saying…I had missed my appointment.

Crap.  Ok.  No worries, I will call them later and apologize.  The next day I got a letter in the mail.

I was surprised to read it.

Dear Monish,

We were sorry we missed you for your appointment last Friday.  As it is consistent with our policy, each missed appointment results in a fee of $88.  Because you did not show up at the agreed upon time, we were not able to use that scheduled time to help other clients.  

As this was there first time you had missed your appointment, we will be waving the fee.


[My Dentist’s Office]

My Response To This

You got to be kidding me!

I like to think I’m a pretty positive guy.  But this ruffled my feathers.

The idea that a business is threatening to charge if I don’t show up (to pay them for services) made me feel…a variety of things.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it was great they waived the fee – but something didn’t feel right.

What didn’t feel right?  Was I overreacting in my initial response?  I wasn’t too sure.  All I knew was, something was off.

As I do whenever I am confused – I consulted some family and friends.

Here’s what my family said:

  • Yes, that’s a reasonable fee and very typical.  I only paid $50 when we didn’t show up for a doctor’s appointment.

  • Well, they are losing out on business because you didn’t show up.

  • You need to find a practice that is smaller – like a family practice.  They won’t charge you large fees.

Um…ok.  A post to my facebook got response from some of my friends who agreed and also disagreed.

Their response varied a bit:

  • Well, we should be able to charge them when they are late and we have to wait for them [dentist]!

  • That makes sense, they are losing out on business because of you.

  • You should have called 48 hours ahead of time.  They lost out on business because of you.  

  • $80?!! Our office charges $25…and very rarely unless they are a chronic no show-er.

What Should I Believe?  And What Should I Do…If Anything?

AH yes.  So many opinions and advice!  Who and what should I believe?

One thing that I’ve learned in life, is that everything is grey.

Everyone has their own experiences and viewpoints.  It’s up to YOU to determine your own thoughts and feelings about a situation.

Empowerment Tip: This is your life. Learn how to make decisions. To get better at making decisions, imagine there is no one else left on the planet to help you make your decision. No mom, dad, family, friends, colleague, no one. Then ask yourself, what would I do?

Remember though, that feelings and emotions are so misleading at time.  

That’s why it’s key to live with principles and live life according to your values.  That takes the emotions out of it.

Values are Different for Everyone

Each of us has different values.  Some people value fighting and being right.  And they live their life in those values.  However, it doesn’t serve them so well.

However, this doesn’t mean some values are bad or some values are good.

What matters in life is how effective your values are to living an empowered and peaceful life.

In fact, our values evolve as we evolve.  A kid that values partying may not later in life.

Having the Courage to live in Accordance to Your Values

The key to understanding values – is that we feel bad when our values are violated and we do nothing.  And we feel bad when we are not in alignment with our values.  

This causes a lot of victim mentality.

Here’s the honest truth:  

  1. I felt disrespected.  Some of my principles and values were not respected by the dentist.
  2. I felt betrayed. would like my dentist and I to be friends.  I feel like a health specialist is a special sort of relationship so I didn’t like how the dentist was treating me like a number.
  3. I felt taken advantage of.  I think their policy fee is too much – a smaller amount would have been better.  But with too large of an amount, it seems greedy, punitive, and snobbish.
  4. I felt unappreciated.  Personally, I think businesses should work towards making their customers happy – after all, I am the one helping him pay his bills.
  5. I felt unsafe. I felt their attitude to customers showed that they’d sell me out in 2 seconds.  This line hurt the most:  “Because you did not show up at the agreed upon time, we were not able to use that schedule time to help other clients”.  

Your Feelings

I want to call out how in the last section, I started with sharing how I FELT.  This is intentional.

A lot of times when someone disrespects our values (intentional or not) – we get hurt and annoyed.  And it’s OK.

However, if we focus exclusively on blaming the other person, we fail to get in touch with our true feelings.  In fact, it’s easier to blame than be vulnerable and say I felt unsafe.

Everyone gets annoyed by different things.  And that’s OK to feel however you are feeling.

But to sit and wallow in a victim mentality doesn’t work.

Own your feelings to drop the negative emotions — and THEN do something about it.

To reiterate:  “If we focus exclusively on blaming the other person, we fail to get in touch with our true feelings.  It’s easier to blame than be vulnerable and say I felt unsafe…Everyone gets annoyed by different things. And that’s OK to feel however you are feeling. But to sit and wallow in a victim mentality doesn’t work. Own your feelings to drop the negative emotions — and THEN do something about it.

Your Personal Boundaries

Definitely a personal boundary was crossed for me.  And hey, to each, their own.  That’s why it’s called a personal boundary.  

To other people this may not have been an issue.  They may have scoffed.  Or they may have thought, phew, next time I’ll be more careful.

The thing you want to look at is how crazy you get.  lol  

Something happened, but am I responding or reacting?  One is driven by principles and values — and the other is driven by emotions and hurt.

Empowerment Tip: When something happens that bothers you, do you react or respond? Do you get crazy or do you pause and reflect? “Responding” is driven by Principles and Values – “Reacting” is driven by emotions and feeling threatened or hurt.

I was annoyed and my initial response was “how dare they threaten me with a fee!”, but I did pause and reflect if my emotions were right or wrong.

I was not overly upset or losing sleep over it.

In the end, I realized I just want a dentist who doesn’t have a policy like this one.  

So I decided I’d cancel all the work with this dentist and find another one that has a better policy.

Canceling My Future Business

My dentist’s office called me on Monday.  The lady was following her typical “follow-up script”.  Our convo was quite interesting!  haha

Secretary:  Monish!  So glad we got a hold of you.  We missed you last week.  What happened?

Me:  I had guests over from out of town and I totally lost track of time.  My apologies!

Secretary:  No problem.  

Me:  I did receive your phone calls though.  It was very thoughtful and you guys did a good job following up.  It was my fault I didn’t check my voicemail in time.  However, I did receive your letter this weekend.  I’m not a big fan of your $88 fee for missed meetings.  For that reason, I am going to cancel all my future work with you guys.  I would rather have a dentist that didn’t charge those fees.

Silence on the other end.  haha

Of course I jumped in to end that silence and help her digest what was happening (I like to make others comfortable).  So I added…

Me:  Yeah… I’m not sure how to proceed.  I would like to take the paperwork from the dentist and hand it over to my new dentist.

Secretary:  Oh ok.  Sure.  You have to sign a release form for that.  We can draft it up.

Me:  Great.  Please tell the dentist that I appreciate all the work he’s done so far, but that maybe I wasn’t the right client for him.

Concluding Thoughts

I shared my actions with some family and friends.  Some of them said, you should have told that to the dentist.  Some of them said I was taking things way too personally.

For me, I think I did well.  And that’s what matters.  It was a great exercise in assertiveness.

I handle the entire situation well:

  1. I had mixed emotions at first so consulted with family and friends instead of just reacting and getting angry.
  2. I got clear on my principles and feelings.  I owned them and wasn’t embarrassed to share them.
  3. Most importantly:  I called the dentist up and ended my service in a mature assertive way.  I didn’t blame them on the call (and even thanked them!),  took responsibility for my fault in the matter (e.g. not calling in advance to cancel), and I specified what I wanted (to cancel services).

Overall, I got the outcome I wanted.

I communicated my dislike of the policy and I got their cooperation in handing over my file for future dental work.  I didn’t explode or get crazy on the Secretary.

Comment Below!

What do you think about my response to my dentist?  I would love to hear your thoughts!  Comment below and share your two cents.

Stay Empowered,



3 Comments on “Why I Fired My Dentist…and How I Did It Assertively”

  1. This is great Monish! I am practicing to be more assertive and it is tough for me because that’s not what is natural to me – I prefer to run away and hide in my shell and feel miserable rather than address the issue and be assertive for myself – So your story is a great example. Thanks for sharing this! Your story came at the right time for me!

  2. Thanks for sharing your Empowering Advise so grateful to received continue education through your blog

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