Disempower your ‘tut-tut’ – reducing your critical voice

tut-tut critical voiceJane Lelean offers some top tips to help you reduce the influence your critical voice has on your thinking.

For many years I have been contacted by excellent dentists looking for career coaching because they want to leave the profession. Since lockdown, the number of calls has risen dramatically.

In December 2020, 43,007 dentists were registered with the General Dental Council (GDC)  in total. The latest figures, before any adjustments, indicate that 1,112 dentists dropped off the register. This compares with only 23 dentists who left the register in January 2020.

In this article I want to explore how dentists can be their worst critic. This may result in them choosing to leave the profession unnecessarily.

In 15 years working as an accredited therapeutic coach in the dental field, I have noticed that those who are struggling have a ‘tut-tut’ and some people have many.

A ‘tut-tut’ is the critical voice in your head that wiggles its finger at you telling you how wrong, incompetent and useless you are.

‘Tut-tuts’ have different lines of attack to undermine your self-confidence. Let’s explore some examples.


Catastrophising makes every mole hill into a mountain. These ‘tut-tuts’ use words like always, never, every time. If your ‘tut-tut’ uses this approach, it will turn an innocent piece of feedback: ‘You left a cotton roll in my mouth’ (most of us have done it), into a massive complaint that leads to a GDC hearing and you being struck off. It won’t happen, it is just your ‘tut-tut’.

Me, me, me

If you have one of these, your ‘tut-tut’ will make everything your fault and your responsibility. If you were on an early shift and the late shift left the lights on, somehow your ‘tut-tut’ will make it your fault.

Them, them, them

This ‘tut-tut’ uses a very disempowering or combative approach. Everything that goes less than perfectly, or prevents you from making progress is stifled or caused by everyone else and therefore you don’t have any influence to change.

‘I can’t do more private work because my nurse is only a trainee’. ‘I am lonely and I can’t make friends because no one else will want to join an online social event.’

If you have a ‘them, them, them’ ‘tut-tut’ you will probably feel disempowered or constantly battling.

Mind reading

A mind reading ‘tut-tut’ will whisper in your ear: ‘Did you see the way they looked at you, they think you are useless,’ ‘they think you are the newbie and it is your job to do all the NHS work for at least five years.’

A mind reading ‘tut-tut’ makes stuff up and will make you think that you know for certain what someone else is thinking about you. A ‘tut-tut’ is never kind.

Helpless, hopeless, worthless

If you have one of these, your ‘tut-tut’ will be constantly telling you lies that lead you to believe that you are helpless.

There’s no point in finding a coach or attending a training programme as it won’t help. No matter what you do to reach out for help or new strategies you engage, you are beyond help and you are hopeless.

Finally, when they really get their wagging finger and tongue into your mind, they will do all they can to convince you that you are worthless and there is no point continuing in dentistry or life.

‘Tut-tuts’ are liars

The great thing is that once you recognise your ‘tut-tut’ and its strategy you can disempower it. Working with a therapeutic coach, this can be done very quickly, often in only one session. Until then, I would like to give you some tools and ideas that can help you reduce the influence your ‘tut-tut’ has on your thinking:

  • Recognise it – notice where it is, what it looks like and when it appears. Pay attention to what it says and its tone of voice
  • Acknowledge it – pay attention and when it shows up let it know you have noticed it
  • Befriend it – most ‘tut-tuts’ are terrible communicators. Most of them want the best for you. They have a positive intention, and are rubbish at communicating what they want for you. Ask it what the positive message is that it wants you to hear
  • Change it – give it a different vocal tone, a different phrase
  • Draw it – many people find that drawing and naming their ‘tut-tut’ is a powerful way to acknowledge their ‘tut-tut’ and start to disempower it
  • Disempower it – ‘tut-tuts’ behave like an internal bully. Externalise it, speak to it and treat it in exactly the same way as you would if you were halting playground bullying.

You are worthy, challenges do happen, they can be overcome. The easiest way to solve a problem is through team work.

Find an experienced therapeutic coach and they will ensure that together your ‘tut-tut’ is disempowered.

If you cannot disempower your ‘tut-tut’ alone, ask for help.

For more information email [email protected] or visit www.theinstituteofdentalbusiness.co.uk

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here. 

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