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.
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.