Kill them with Kindness?

Joel Lashley from Vistelar

The things we do to make our environments more peaceful, and more therapeutic, and less compatible with violence, sometimes can work against us, and those are the myths that we want to explore. And the first myth I want to talk about is killing them with kindness. And you can’t be a healthcare provider without having heard that myth a few times. Now, the opposite of killing them with kindness might be treating people badly, and that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is the belief that if we treat someone who’s abusing us, or someone who’s objectifying us, verbally assaulting us, with enough kindness, they’ll start to like us, and they’ll stop objectifying us, and they’ll stop treating us badly. So I’m going to ask you this. If there’s a someone in your life, a daughter, you know, usually in these situations we think of women. You’re a co-worker. Your sister came to you, and said, “I’ve been dating this guy for a while, and he’s really nice and I liked him. But the other day he shoved me and called me the B word.” Would you tell her to kill him with kindness? Would you give her this advice? “You know, you’ve been letting yourself go a little lately, fix yourself up. Make him a nice meal, invite him over, you know, kill him with kindness, and maybe you can turn that around.” Of course you wouldn’t give them that advice, right?

So the first step in managing all the myths that get us into so much trouble in healthcare, is to stop giving each other that same advice. Just kill them with kindness when they’re treating us badly. We need to set up therapeutic relationships that set a good solid social contract by treating people with dignity, by showing them respect. And when people are behaving badly, instead of believing that the best way to approach them is to kill them with kindness, is to train our staff about the concept of non escalation. De-escalation is a word that’s thrown down a lot.

The problem with that is, is it trains us how to deal with people when they’re already upset, but not when they’re exhibiting behaviors, or we need service recovery, or they’ve been wronged in some way, or perceived that they’ve been wronged in some way. If we’re able to establish those good professional relationships, “Hi, my name is Joel. I’m the nurse that’s working with your husband today. I’m very sorry this had to happen, that this went this way. This is the reason it happened, and this is what I can do to make it better and ensure that it doesn’t happen next time.”

When we’ve trained to have those non escalatory type of conversations, we let people stew, sit in the corner. The eye rollers, the sighers, the grumblers, and we let them stew. They boil over. If we can turn down the heat, if we can, from the moment we meet patients, and understanding that they all arrive at our hospital with five problems and under stress, is that they’re going to be safe here. And that starts with our words and our nonverbal communication.

 


Team Dynamis Ltd. is the UK representative for Vistelar Conflict Management Training since 2014.

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