Overcoming our Tendency Toward Reductionism

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

Overcoming our Tendency Toward Reductionism

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As dentists and Care Team members, we are often more comfortable identifying signs, symptoms, and trends, as well as diagnosing and proposing solutions than we are in dealing with our patients as humans with emotions, flaws, and inherent fallibility.

This makes perfect sense, as we are all bright, well-educated, organized and technically masterful. And these are the strengths which largely brought us personal success in the incubator of academia.

Our ability to create effective systems for resolving problems efficiently has been greatly rewarded on a number of levels over and over again: Admission, graduation, licensure, advanced training, successful financial management, proper self-promotion, and so on.

But this approach -in spite of its strengths -is equally limited. It causes us to view our profession and those we serve through a reductionistic and mechanistic lens. And as everyone knows, the behavior of others is often confusing, self-defeating, and even harmful. Consequently, others will often refuse to fit neatly into our well-organized, predetermined categories and to function in sync with our well thought-out strategies…much-the-less proceed in a predictable direction.

And then to make things worse, we too at times will be confused, self-defeating, unproductively emotional, and even irrational.

So the central challenge remains: When fallible humans work with fallible humans, lots of unpredictable things happen. To help overcome this issue, we must master openness, transparency, non-judgmentalism, flexibility, and a willingness to completely reconsider things if necessary.

Life is messy.

People are unpredictable.

So it goes.

Successfully navigating relationships and facilitating growth and health requires healthy interpersonal relationships, consciously built and carefully maintained. And Bob Barkley taught us how to do just that.

Paul A Henny DDS

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