General Articles

Dealing with Difficult Types

Dealing with Difficult Types
Kay Stanley, Associate Partner, The Coker Group

In medical practices, we often have to deal with difficult types of people. Some of these we’ve talked about over the last few months in previous CokerConnection issues. Here are a couple of other difficult types:

The Whiner

Some people seem to enjoy whining, have you noticed? They will repeat their problem over and over, even after it has been resolved. And as soon as the current complaint is resolved, they seem to have another one waiting in the wings. Often they complain about problems for which there are no solutions.

When dealing with these types, you need to assume a more “take charge,” business-like approach. While speaking in a kind way, don’t lay the empathy or sympathy on too heavily, but keep repeating the facts. Be prepared to be a “broken record,” if necessary, like this:

“I understand, but as I said I will be glad to send you a copy of your statement.”

“Yes, I realize it has been frustrating, but as I said, we’ll be glad to change our records”

“I know this hasn’t been easy for you, but as I said, I will try to make certain it doesn’t happen again.”

You may even have to interrupt a whiner, if they don’t come up for air! Also be effective to “put the ball back in their court,” so to speak:

“Well, I’m not certain what you would want me to do. How can I help you do this?”

“I would love to be able to help you; what would you like me to do?”

This at least gets you into “solution stage” where you force them to either verbalize a solution or admit that there is none!

The Mistaken Person

When dealing with someone who thinks they are absolutely, positively right, but instead they are absolutely, positively wrong, you must use a great deal of diplomacy. You’ll need to find a face saver that will let them off the hook. Here are some examples of face savers:

“If our records are correct”

“If my information is accurate”

“I’m not sure, but it looks like”

“I think I’ve got good news for you, because hopefully our problem is resolved. If I’m not mistaken”

“Well, I certainly could be wrong about this; it wouldn’t be the first time, but I think”

“I can understand how it would appear to be that way”

Keep in mind that there is nothing to be gained by proving you are right and the patient is wrong, so let it go. Lose the battle and win the war. Avoid fruitless finger-pointing exercises as much as possible. They waste time and energy, and cause problems as well.

You can be a positive influence in your practice if you learn to handle difficult people skillfully. Few people are born with an innate ability to respond well in such circumstances but many can acquire the knowledge and skills for handling trying interactions and situations through following examples and practicing techniques that deflect negative behavior.

Reproduced by permission from The Coker Group, CokerConnection, (Roswell, GA: The Coker Group, 2003), Vol. 3, No. 7, July 2003 by The Coker Group.