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?"
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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?"