Early and Middle Stages: Verbal Skills

Your words and demeanor have the power to defuse tensions, so be attuned to your tone of voice, choice of words, and body language. Basic guidance includes:

Allow the person to express concern.

  • "Please tell me what's bothering you."

Use a shared problem solving approach.

  • "How can we correct this problem?" Learn more …

    Empathic support includes our capacity to envision the perspective of the "other person" in painful or conflicted situations—in this case, an upset or threatening patient or coworker.

    • "Ms. Wallace, I can see that you're very angry … can we talk about what's troubling you?"
    • "Mr. Brown, I know you've had a tough time here since your surgery, but I want to do whatever we can to help you."
  • "I understand how frustrating this must be for you."

Avoid being defensive or contradictory.

  • This only exacerbates a tense situation.

Apologize if appropriate.

  • "I'm sorry this happened. Let's find a way to fix it."

Follow through with their problem.

  • "I'm going to bring this to my supervisor immediately."

Avoid blaming others or "It's not my job."

  • "Let me get someone who can help you with this problem."

Be alert to early signs of a patient's rising anxiety; perhaps offer an empathic inquiry such as, "You seem to be upset … can you tell me what's troubling you?"

Page last reviewed: May 16, 2024