January 31, 2021
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Cognitive dissonance is when a person (or a business) holds or professes contradictory or inconsistent beliefs, thoughts or attitudes.  Having a belief, thought or attitude, however, means little if they are not manifest in words or actions.  This is where the dissonance becomes apparent to others and can result in unwanted outcomes.

Dissonance, seen by others, is perceived as a sign of inconsistency, which in turn can result in feelings of skepticism, doubt and mistrust.  It undermines credibility, authority and leadership.

When Tobacco companies promoted cigarettes as “healthy” despite knowing otherwise, they acted with cognitive dissonance.  How did that work out for them?  And how are companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi now dealing with the fact that the medical establishment now connects sugary beverages to the rise in obesity, Diabetes and other diseases?

Yet, dissonance can stealthily creep into our personal lives and businesses.  Rooting out dissonance and establishing resonance can yield powerful, positive outcomes.

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An example of personal cognitive dissonance is a person who openly professes a desire losing weight and yet is always seen with a candy bar or sugared soda in their hands.  They’re saying one thing but are acting in a contradictory manner.  When such incongruous, inconsistent or dissonant behavior is seen by others, it can lead to perceptions of weakness and insincerity.  A lack of respect might be the outcome for both the individual and the observer of the behavior.

Buyer’s remorse is another example of cognitive dissonance.  It occurs when a person gets excited about purchasing something only to have that excitement disappear or turn into a more negative emotion such as fear, shame or guilt soon afterwards.  The momentary excitement, which led to the purchase, is replaced by other thoughts or emotions that the excitement had suppressed.

Some people are so fearful of such remorse, that it paralyzes them for making the purchase in the first place.  Amazon has realized that and tried to overcome it by making returns as simple and easy as possible.

Dental practices might experience such dissonance appearing as patients cancelling appointments.

Great salespeople understand the power of buyer’s remorse and take measures during the sales process to overcome the potential negative thoughts and emotions, while building a powerful level of excitement that lasts long after the transaction.  This is why a post-sale follow-up and continued customer engagement via communications is so important.  These client-focused actions decrease the potential negative impact of this type of cognitive dissonance.

Another example of this can (or could) be seen in several high-end restaurants who subscribe to the Danny Meyer school of hospitality, as explained in his fantastic book  (Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business). Upon exiting, these establishments would give patrons a “take home” treat they could enjoy at home.  Rather than “paying the bill” being the last taste in a patron’s mouth, that’s replaced by a gift that has a better taste than the expensive bill. Plus, the post-purchase experience of what was usually a high-priced meal is supplanted with a pleasurable experience enjoyed after the transaction took place.

In a dental practice, one could mimic such hospitality by give parting gifts after paying the bill (commonly only done for hygiene visits, and by the hygienist before checking out) and/or thank-you notes or post-visit phone or even facetime calls.  “We’re checking in to see how you’re doing,” or, “Do you have questions about your visit?” Asked a day or 2 after a visit, such an interaction can go a long way to negate any buyer’s remorse.

Dissonance in business can be the result of professing a value and then acting or tolerating behavior contrary to that value.  An example of this type of dissonance is apparent in how most dentists market. Most practices market services.  However, when asked about their services, most dentists would argue that the value of the service is tied into their care, skill, expertise and judgment.  Yet, when they market, the promote price.  Free consultations or $99 initial visits are commonly seen in dental marketing.

Such dissonance confuses patients and staff, who are being trained to look at dental services as a commodity rather than as a health-promoting, life-altering or a transformative experience.

The solution?  Market solutions to problems and outcomes.  Promote the transformations.

With the “oral-systemic” connection becoming increasingly elucidated, and even the role of oral health in immunity and Covid-19, practice missions that promote the connection of oral health to overall health and wellness are gaining momentum and popularity.  This presents another opportunity for dissonance.

Few dentists would employ people who are missing front teeth. Bad messaging.  Yet, some practices employ people who are not shining examples of health and wellness.  Such a conflict in visual messaging can sabotage a practice’s efforts to implement wellness or whole-health focused care.

Resonance in business, on the other hand, is when everything, including values, mission, actions, communications and marketing are all in alignment.  It’s harmonious, as everyone, employees, patients and vendors know what to expect.  Strong, resonant signals are easy to interpret and minimize misunderstandings.  Resonance facilitates strong, lasting relationships.

Daniel Goleman et al., in Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence refer to “resonant” and “dissonant” leadership styles.  Resonant leaders have a high degree of “emotional intelligence,” which allows them to connect with their employees.  Employees under such leadership feel that they are cared about as much as people and individuals as they are based on their work performance.

Dissonant leaders are commanding and pacesetting.  They can be objective, logical in decision making, and can exude a calming influence, even under stress.  They are more authoritative and distant from their employees.  Such a style can be useful in times when deadlines must be met but such a style can lead to emotional frustration, stress and employee disengagement.

Where in your life is there dissonance or resonance?  Where can we help you find changes that lead to better employee engagement, marketing performance or even patient acceptance and retention?

Let’s talk.  Schedule a complimentary consultation now.

To your excellent clarity and success,

Michael, Laurie, Merideth and the PPS Team

P.S.  Every consultation also comes with a new SPECIAL REPORT; 10 Simple, Low or No cost Strategies to Build a WORD OF MOUTH, Referral Practice. This report can easily add between $42,000 to over $100,000 per year to your practice.


Dr. Michael J. Goldberg

Fellow of:         The Academy of General Dentistry

                         The International Academy of Dental-Facial Esthetics

                         The American College of Dentists

                         The New York Academy of Dentistry

                        The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health

Past President:  American Friends of DVI

Oral Advisory Board:  SHALVA

Manhattan Dental Health-Linhart Dentistry          


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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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