If I say something, it will make things worse?
Joel Lashley from Vistelar
If you’ve been a healthcare provider, you no doubt have heard someone say that “if I say something, it’ll make things worse.” As a matter of fact, you might be giving that advice. If you hear someone give you that advice, correct them, and if you’re giving other people that advice, stop doing it. This is what I mean by that. If people are objectifying us, they’re verbally assaulting us, they’re being disrespectful, what is the nonverbal message of silence? If someone in our waiting room, in our treatment areas are cursing, yelling, and threatening, what is the nonverbal message of silence? Can you think of any good ones?
The common ones that people bring up are it means it’s okay to behave that way here. I’m afraid of you. I have no authority. Those are the nonverbal messages of silence. I’ve asked thousands off people that question, and I’ve never had anybody even offer a possible good verbal message from silence. Why do we say that? We say that because it lets us off the hook, because it allows us not to become engaged with the person who’s treating us badly. We have to understand the difference between anti-social behavior, very threatening behavior, and crisis behavior. At the beginning of the relationship, when our patients, when our visitors are young and cursing, we have to establish that social contract.
“Hi. My name is Joel. I’m one of the nurses here in the hospital. I could hear that you’re really upset, and I want to help, but can I ask you please not to yell? There’s a family right over there, and I think you’re frightening them?”
The answer to the myth that if you say something, it’ll make it worse, is, first, to give everybody the authority and the expectation that they’ll speak up and do something when they hear or see gateway behaviors. Everybody’s familiar with the “See something, say something” motto from the Department of Homeland Security. In reality, they found lots of empty boxes and things and backpacks that someone just left out, but, every once in a while, they find something that shouldn’t be there in an airport, a hospital, and the reason they find more of them and avert more disasters is because people are starting to embrace that notion. If I see something, I should say something.
In healthcare, we need to see something, say something, but also when we hear something, do something. When we hear some of the yelling, threatening, and cursing, is that we need to train our staff when it’s safe to speak up, how to speak up, or what appropriate action to take. That might be calling the supervisor, calling your security department, or the police, depending on the situation, but we can’t let things go because when they go, even the small things, they build into the big things.
Team Dynamis Ltd. is the UK representative for Vistelar Conflict Management Training since 2014.
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