The current pandemic is teaching us a lot about authority: who do you trust enough to believe when there are so many conflicting opinions even amongst scientists?
There are lessons here for your own brand of authority…
Take for example how your dentist is (or isn’t) communicating about COVID-19. I’m on the mailing list of two dentists—Dentist A where I used to live and Dentist B in my new community.
The only technical difference between their practices is that Dentist B has other specialists who come in a day or two a week.
Dentist A sent four emails since March 12. First to say they had expanded their sanitation procedures, then that they were closing their offices on the advice of the California Dental Association. The last two were to assure patients that she had enough protective equipment for emergencies, but they would not re-open until it was safe to do so. And that we should anticipate delays if they couldn’t get access to proper protective gear.
I visited Dentist B for a routine appointment on March 4. We agreed that I’d schedule a non-urgent specialist visit. As COVID-19 accelerated, they sent no email or text communications about the effect of the pandemic on their practice. I was relying on Dentist A’s view of the situation.
Instead, what I got from Dentist B—after our city passed a shelter in place edict—were two snail mail requests to make a specialist appointment. No mention of COVID-19 or enhanced protective procedures.
(Out of curiosity, I checked their website which said they were open for “essential” services, despite the CDA recommending practices close to all but true emergency care.)
Which dentist would you trust?
The thing is, neither dentist is significantly more skilled or more experienced than the other. But one used pointed communications to educate her audience and also to assure patients she’d be there in a true dental emergency. The other left it to chance, while promoting services that make no sense in the current environment.
True authority is less about how much you know and more about how much you teach your audience (without putting your own interests ahead of theirs).