Infectious Optimism


Last week, I was experiencing pain in both of my ears. After trying some over the counter remedies without luck, I decided to visit our nearby urgent care facility with what I suspected was an ear infection.

I figured if I went when the facility was just opening for the day, I’d get in more quickly. When I arrived, the place was packed with hacking kids, sniffling adults, and a couple of injuries. What choice did I have but to wait? The intake process was ridiculously slow (why did they have to copy my insurance card and license when they’d just done so less than a month ago?). After getting checked in (an hour into the visit), I settled in for a long wait. All in all, this was not a pleasant place to spend time.

I began to watch people called to the exam rooms by a truly joyful and magnetic individual. He would greet each new victim cheerfully, ask them how they were doing and crack a joke to put them at ease. I watched the people in the waiting room begin to engage in pleasant conversation with each other, despite their maladies.

My Turn

More than two hours following my arrival, it was my turn to be called into the waiting room by this cheerful person. He greeted me with an upbeat attitude, asked me how I was today, and patiently listened to my comments (complaints?) about the slow intake process.

Then, Dr. Jackson (yes, this cheerful, upbeat, personable individual was – surprisingly – one of the doctors on staff at the urgent care facility) proceeded to tell me that one of the nurses called in sick just as the facility was opening. He was doing her job as well as his.

Dr. Jackson took care of my blocked ear canals. All the while he cheerfully told me more than I could ever want to know about adult middle ear infections (often caused by using Q-Tips to clean them) and the bacterial organisms responsible for the infection (pseudomonas aeruginosa for those of you who might be as interested as I am). He told me why he was prescribing the particular antibiotics he chose, and wished me well. All of the information he provided was given in a positive way, without rushing. In those few short minutes, I felt like I was the only patient in the place.

I’m not sure I’ve fully captured the effect that Dr. Jackson’s interpersonal skills and upbeat attitude had a profound effect on patients and staff. It was energizing, even in the grim setting.

I’ll bet my ears even healed faster because of his attitude. If this guy can lift spirits in a dreary medical facility, think about the effect your attitude has on those around you at work.

What are you doing to infect people with optimism today?


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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