Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Should I Respond to an Angry Client?

All of us once-awhile, will have to deal with some angry client, whether the public, nurses or doctors. Here is an article extracted from Medscape, from Bonnie L. Senst, MS, RPh Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Director, Allina Pharmacy Practice, Allina Hospitals and Clinics, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (published 08/04/2010)

Some basic principles of communication can help ease an otherwise tense interaction. As the angry person explains his or her problem or need, it is very important to listen attentively. Do not interrupt, or you may escalate his or her anger. The book Crucial Confrontations discusses the need to dissipate the emotion before you can address the content of the argument. The author lists several things that you should not do:

  • Don't get hooked. Don't allow yourself to become angry in response.
  • Don't try to "one up" the other person. Stay focused on the central problem, and don't introduce your own problems.
  • Don't patronize. Telling people to calm down only throws gas on the flames.
Once the client's anger is de-escalating and you get an opportunity to respond, acknowledge the complaint and say that you are sorry. Ask for additional details or suggestions for an acceptable resolution of the problem. Be sure to keep a positive attitude. Show the client that you are intent on solving his or her problem. Describe what steps you will take and follow through on your commitments. Thank the individual, and encourage him or her to let you know if any other issues arise in the future.

Some people believe that saying "I'm sorry" is admitting guilt and therefore have suggested the alternative term "I regret..." Quint Studer, founder of the Studer Group, an outcomes-based healthcare consulting firm, maintains that saying you are sorry does not mean you are admitting a mistake. He suggests using such phrasing as "I am sorry you are disappointed" or "I am sorry that we are not meeting your expectations."

Suggested Reading (along with the article)

  • Clark PA, Malone MP. Making it Right: Healthcare Service Recovery Tools, Techniques, and Best Practices.Marblehead, MA:HCPro, Inc.; 2005.
  • Baker SK, Bank L. I'm Sorry to Hear That: Real Life Responses to Patients' 101 Most Common Complaints About Health Care. Gulf Breeze, FL:Fire Starter Publishing; 2008.
  • Diering SL. Love Your Patients! Improving Patient Satisfaction with Essential Behaviors that Enrich the Lives of Patients and Professionals. Nevada City, CA: Blue Dolphin Publishing; 2004.

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