The Philosophical Paradox

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

The Philosophical Paradox

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Life is full of paradoxes, seemingly self-contradictory statements or situations which ultimately are found to be true – and the practice of dentistry is no exception.

One of my most favored paradoxes of late is the fact that every relationship-based / health-centered practice must develop a written Philosophy Statement, which can critically function as the practice’s constitution.

Bob Barkley said, that creating and writing this Statement represented the single most important thing that a truly patient-centered practice can do.

But therein lies paradox #1:

Even though writing a Philosophy Statement is essential, it is only valuable if it is a “living” document created by individuals who truly believe in what it represents. In other words, a Philosophy Statement is a SYMBOLIC representation of how the team feels, and consequently what they are willing to struggle to attain (including how they chose to live). And because a Philosophy Statement is symbolic, the words themselves are somewhat meaningless – particularly to others except through their EXPERIENCING of what they mean.

And this is where we left brain-leaning dentists can easily get hung up, as most of us have been enculturated in the behavioralist tradition, where we believe that people are reactionary, or should predictably respond to our logic.

This mindset, particularly when recently empowered by a a largely emotion-derived Philosophy Statement, causes us to want to tell the world and recite it to our new patients like the Gettysburg Address.

But at that moment, it is wise to pause and recall the truism, “No one is more dangerous than the newly anointed”, as too often in those situations, what we intend with our actions is often perceived very differently.

So this brings us to paradox #2:

“I learned that the less I told my patients about my philosophy of dentistry, and what I could do for them, the more interested the patients became in really thinking about themselves and accepting responsibility for there health.” – Robert F. Barkley

So the less we tell patients -the more they learn IF we create an optimal environment for that learning to occur. And the less we tell patients about OUR philosophy (but instead focus on allowing them to experience it), the more the the patient will “acquire a philosophy of their own” which is in greater alignment with their clarifying values.

And it is through problem ownership that the desire for a preferred future emerges, along with the will to see it through.

Paul A Henny, DDS

Thought Experiments LLC, ©2017

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