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We all mean well, and want to do the best for our patients. No one want to go home from work  feeling upset. It feels so much better, and makes work less stressful, when our interactions with our patients and people around us are all positive.

So why do  our interactions sometimes, seem less than positive and even confrontational?

It’s not necessarily on purpose, but more likely, due to our awkwardness with language, being able to chose the most appropriate phrasing or choice of words to convey a message.

Even the best have this problem, so us mortals need not despair.

Take for example-  politicians. They’re supposed to be the best at communicating and getting people to like them. We’ve all seen countless instances  where successful politicians mean to say one thing  but end up  conveying a completely different message. This creates different reaction in different people.  From laughter to just plain anger and disgust..

I refer you to Wendy Leebov.


1. “It’s our Policy”

What your Patient Hears: “Look, that’s just the way it is, so take it or leave it.”

I worked with a woman who often tried disguise her criticism in this way. Rather than just being upfront that she didn’t quite follow my line of thinking, she’d attempt to come across as truly surprised by what I’d said.

While she might’ve done this in an attempt to soften the blow, I never heard it like that. Instead, I took it as a stab in the back because my boss was in attendance—and that feeling led me to promptly ignore her feedback. Which was unfortunate, because I’m pretty sure she often had a point.

You could have said:

“I’m sorry, but unfortunately we are not permitted to do …. ”


What to Say Instead

Just stay away from words like  “honesty …?” or “to tell you the truth…”.

Sometimes saying sorry goes long way, I’m sorry, we ….”

3. “You should have…”

What your Patient Hears: “You Did it Wrong Because You’re Stupid.”

“It’s really your fault. If you had done it the right way … “

You need to do it this way…”.


You should have called first…


I’ve run into this a few times when working with larger, cross-functional teams. Inevitably, there would be a few different translations of a project’s goals. And if everyone wasn’t communicating well, wires would get crossed and the project would get off track. When the time came to


4. “I’m not trying to argue with you….”

What your patient Hears: “You’re trying to argue with me ”.


At this point, things are going down hill real fast. This usually doesn’t end well. Best to back down and de-escalate the situation.


What to Say Instead

In this case, you can actually just remove the actually from whatever you’re about to say.


Being—or appearing—passive aggressive can really sneak up on you. When we try to minimize criticism, things can easily go awry. Rather than couching your constructive criticism in confusing language, just come out and say it—politely. Your colleagues will appreciate your candor, and you’ll avoid being labeled as the worst person to meet with in the office.


4. “I’m ….”

What your patient Hears: “You’re trying to argue with me ”.


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