Maria’s appointment with her physician didn’t go so well today. He went over her recent test results with her, adjusted her medication, and sent her on her way. So what’s the problem?
Well, the problem is that he sent her on her way. Literally. He seemed to be distracted, almost as if he was angry about something. When she had to think for a minute before answering a question he asked, he snapped at her with “I can’t help you if you aren’t following the schedule I gave you.” Maria was going to ask him a couple of questions but decided not to. Her doctor said he would see her in a month and walked out.
Maria has no doubt that her doctor is doing a good job of managing her condition. And she reminded herself that this is a business relationship and not a friendship. But still… was it really necessary for him to behave this way?
Have you ever felt like your doctor was unnecessarily unkind, scolding, or just plain rude?
Rather than leave feeling like Maria, consider addressing your doctor’s behavior in the moment. Here’s how to have this conversation:
Take ownership for your feelings. Start by addressing how you feel. Use the “I” word. “It’s hard for me to talk to you when you keep cutting me off.”
A little compassion can go a long way. Give your doctor the benefit of a doubt. “Looks like you are having a rough day, today. Is everything okay?” Your doctor may not want to pour out his/her heart to you, but this may at least help make them aware of how they are coming across.
Try some humor. “Wow, looks like I’m not the only one who got up on the wrong side of the bed today.” A good laugh can help cool the temperature, or thaw the ice.
But don’t hesitate to be straightforward. “You don’t have to talk to me that way. I didn’t understand your question.” Or, “I’m not trying to give you a hard time. Is it necessary to bite my head off?” Sometimes, the direct approach is the best approach.
And don’t forget that scolding can be a way of expressing concern. If your doctor is worried that you are not progressing as well as he/she had hoped, or if you have not been compliant, then angry or scolding words can be your doctor’s way of expressing frustration. This is a good time to get clarification. “You sound like you’re angry with me. Can you help me understand why?” (And if you haven’t been doing what you said you would do, be ready to take your lumps.)
Keep your expectations realistic. Your doctor may respond by acknowledging that he/she understands how you feel, maybe commit to adjusting their attitude, and even apologize. This can help build your relationship. On the other hand, your words may fall on seemingly deaf ears. Consider the big picture. Is this something you can live with or do you want to consider looking for a doctor who is more people-oriented?
Communicating with your doctor. It’s not only about what is said but how it is said.