Choose Your Words Wisely
BY DONNA SUTER, Apison, Tenn.
Pop quiz: Is it ever appropriate to call a patient "hon?" Answer: Probably not. What you consider a term of affection may actually be offensive and demeaning to someone else.
Using inappropriate endearments is just one example of what Beverly Inman-Ebel, author of "Talk is Not Cheap" (Bard Press, Texas), would call a "TroubleWord." Other words that evoke strong emotional responses -- usually negative -- are "should" and absolutes such as "always" and "never," which can make even a friendly, well-intended message sound dictatorial or arrogant.
Striking the right verbal tone is particularly important for someone in your position, as you spend much of your day directing patients through various diagnostic tests. You can garner the respect you deserve and avoid triggering defensiveness by phrasing requests with "I" statements instead of "you" statements. For example, "Mrs. Jones, I'd like you to put your chin here and keep your forehead snug against the band, please," sounds a lot more pleasant than "Put your chin here and hold still."
Another situation in which you should avoid using TroubleWords is when you're settling the bill at the end of the visit. Discussing money can be stressful for staff and patients alike, but you can defuse the situation by avoiding negative words. Patients who hear, "Your insurance doesn't pay for your new eyeglasses," may feel rebuffed or dissatisfied with their insurance coverage. You can prevent such situations by using positive action-filled words, such as "What I can do . . . ," or "Your coverage does pay for the basic exam. Your portion is $145. Will that be check, cash or credit card?"
Poor word choices waste time and increase your stress level. Spend time focusing on the words you use and watch your self confidence and performance soar.