By Johnna Dukes, ABOC

It feels like I’m seeing a lot of news coverage about the measles outbreak these days, and instead of spending time being worried about that, I decided to think about something way more pleasant and also equally contagious: fun!

I spend a lot of time in airports and I like to watch and notice people’s habits. Human behavior is on full display during the boarding process. Normally I like to watch the gate agent call out which zone is currently boarding and see how many people nudged in front of others to get to the front of the line to board the plane. Seriously, we all revert to grade school in that moment, and you can feel the entire group’s anxiety rising in that waiting area. This bump and nudge process happens the vast majority of times I fly and in turn most people boarding the plane spend most of their time trying not to interact with each other.

Recently, I had a very different experience. I got to my gate and had the pleasure of having gate agents who were smiling and telling jokes, greeting everyone with a smile, and using people’s names as they were preparing for the boarding process. You could feel the mood lighten and it was truly the smoothest boarding process I’ve ever had. Better still, we got on the plane and the flight attendants were smiling, and by all outward appearance, they were happy to have us on the plane. Woah, never have I ever!! I have to say, this was actually an enjoyable flight! I have never had fun or laughed so hard while having my customary ginger ale and pretzels. During that time I was shocked to look around and see that everyone else on the flight was actually smiling too! Which was when it hit me; fun is contagious!

Patients can feel this, too, when they enter your practice. Even if no actual words are spoken, the patient can actually sense the mood of the practice. If your staff greets the patient with a smile and a funny quip, you can immediately see the anxiety of your patient melt away. Better still, in my practice, we often find ourselves outright laughing with our patients, and there’s no better greeting for anyone else who happens to enter during this time. To be greeted with people smiling and laughing, immediately says to them, “Ok, this is going to be fun.”

When I get to work with a patient who is picking out new glasses, one of my favorite things to do is to ask them several functional questions; i.e. “tell me about how much computer work you’re doing on a daily basis” or “do you prefer your frames to have adjustable nosepads?” And then after I have an idea about what products this patient needs, I ask my favorite question “And how much sass can I give you with these glasses; where do you sit on the mild to wild scale?” Usually this question stops them in their tracks and garners a big smile. That’s usually when it hits them that we’re going to have some fun with the selection process. Also, if I’m having fun showing them frames, they’re more than likely going to have fun trying them on.

Going back to my fun flight situation, I’ve told this story probably hundreds of times since that day, and I’m pretty sure I’ll tell it hundreds more. And this often happens with our patients. When they have fun and they feel like spending time in your office was a good experience, they want their friends and families to know about it, and they’ll tell everyone in their circle of influence about how much fun they had in your office. And better even than knowing that your patients had fun is finishing your day knowing that you had fun too! It’s good for everyone’s mental health!

So, even if you’re not feeling especially fun today, try to fake it. Start with a smile, tell a silly joke, try to lighten the mood and hopefully, eventually, you might even start to have a little fun. Your patients will appreciate it, and you will feel better too. Try it, you might even like it!

To learn more about how to engage and connect with customers in a meaningful way that turns a tedious shopping transaction into a notable experience, check out our CE, Steps to Enrich the Customer Experience, at