Touchy People: Are you adept and handling sensitive people?

United States
December 1, 2008 2:40pm CST
I see people every day. I work in a doctor's office. I have to deal with people who have anxiety or even dementia who need to have a certain test done. I explain the test to them as best I can and I ask if they understand the test. Today, one of my patients was .. different. They got miffed. "You shouldn't ask people if they understand the test because it implies that they are stupid." This irked me. I asked how she would have phrased that. "Ask if they have any questions." I can see how a person may have no questions about the test because they are unable to understand your explanation. Perhaps I spoke to fast. Perhaps they are hard of hearing or I spoke to softly. In doing this test for the last six years now, and no one has stated that my standard spiel describing the test implied they were stupid. As far as I can see it, implication is something that I mean but don't say outright. in this case, it would see more appropriate to me that the patient inferred in error what I might have intended to imply with my statement. So, whilst busy trying to do my job as best I could, my patient summarily decided to categorize my wording as .. essentially rude. I felt, quite honestly, that calling someone rude is.. rude.. unless you have clear reasons for doing so. There are many things in the world that I don't know. I could be confused by things which seem like simple explanations to other people. Like what's wrong with my car or some other mechanical thing which I have little experience with. Or, directions which seem plain and clear to the person speaking, but I can't visualize all the directions and lock them away in my head just by hearing someone rattle them off once. One of the things I don't, really know is how to tactfully address people who have offended me. I'm in a work environment. So, what I do.. what I know to do.. is to let things slide. Kind of the, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything school of thought. I finished up what I was doing at the moment and ushered the patient back to the waiting room. After a little bit of time, I got the patient for the next part of the test and mentally pretended I had some kind of amnesia about the previous interaction. Sadly, I am not skilled at addressing people with foibles. Pretending it didn't happen really isn't skillfull or clever. I think a person who is skilled at dealing with touchy people would be able to seem apologetic and then somehow succinctly redirect the conversation. A person skilled with dealing with difficult people would have internalized the whole "you can't please everyone" lesson. Me, not so much. I didn't say anything more and I didn't really care to try to change the patient's opinion. It did still rile me for a little bit and occupied my thoughts for longer than it should have. How do you deal with sensitive or touchy people? Are you good at this or does it cause you to stumble and fumble a little bit? Any stories about cantankerous people you feel like sharing.