How Our Memories Shape Our Decisions

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

How Our Memories Shape Our Decisions

Posted on

We accurately remember only 20 percent of what we hear, and remember only 30 percent of what we see and hear. However, we can recall 70 percent of what WE say and write down, and 90 percent of what WE say and what WE participate in exploring after we have heard it from someone else.

This is another way of saying that we misunderstand people all the time, and they misunderstand us right back, unless we make a concerted effort to minimize misunderstandings.

As humans, we are very biased in our first impression of others. Psychologists call this bias “primary effect”, where in essence, our brains are designed to make quick assessments which then help us to determine if we are safe and therefore what to do next.

As we age and become more educated, we add more layers and complexities to this process. As dentists, and dental team members, we like to add: “They are not a cooperative person”. “They don’t know which end of a toothbrush to use”. “They never follow my directions.” “They have a low dental IQ!”

But in truth, upon first meeting someone, we know far too little about the them to draw many accurate conclusions. And we have all experienced this, as the best dressed person with the finest car, can sometimes be the most difficult to work with – and completely unreliable. Conversely, the fellow with the beat-up pickup truck and dirty work boots can be so reliable and good-for-his-word, that you can plan your whole day around him right down to the last minute.

Our minds naturally want to make quick assessments of others, and then find ways to think which are consistent with what we already believe about them.

Then, laid on top of this is our tendency to use our positional authority figure power to leverage an outcome WE desire.

And perhaps worse, we confuse this leveraging with leadership, when in truth it is a subtle form of manipulation, and when successful at gaining compliance often creates co-dependency relationships which then bare bad fruit later on down the road.

So how do we get around our natural tendency to misunderstand others and consequently, trip ourselves up and undermine our well-intended purpose?

Bob Barkley answered that question fifty years ago. He told us that to build successful relationships which render out problem ownership, compliance, and ultimately a higher degree of health, we must create an experiential learning environment for our new patients, one in which they can experience the meaning of what they are learning (co-discovery), and then participate in planning for a more preferred future (co-diagnosis / co-planning).

And in so doing, we hit the 90% retention rate, and when that true and transformational knowledge matches up with their values and priorities, we hear the word “YES!”

Paul A Henny, DDS

Thought Experiments LLC, ©2016

Read more at:

Home Testimonial

“Thanks so much for your continuing efforts to promote and advance the concept of the relationship based practice.” – Jim Otten

Great Forum

What a great forum for sharing the wisdom we have been privileged to gain from those who came before us. Hearing that wisdom expressed in the language of today is so important. ~ Mary Osborne

Get Involved with the
Bob Barkley Study Club Now!

1213 Corporate Circle SW, Roanoke, VA 24018
(540) 774-1577 |

Contact Us