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A book could be written on this subject and many have, but here in these brief paragraphs, I want to talk about how to engage and redirect difficult people.  This post deals primarily with customer service challenges, but the principles can be applied to other circumstances as well.

1. Listen - hear them out.  They may be screaming, swearing, making false accusations, etc.... swallow your pride and LISTEN.  It is very VERY hard not to interrupt especially when they are saying ludicrous things, but interjecting usually just fuels their fire.  They may have a valid point or may be completely ridiculous or somewhere in between - just hear them out.

Why?  First put yourself in their shoes no matter how unlovable they are.  Emotion is probably clouding some of the picture for them, they may be confused, tired, not feeling well, maybe just had a difficult conversation with a partner or friend, etc.. it could be anything.  Or maybe, they are just the kind of person who anticipates problems when they come in (to a pharmacy) and are ready to jump on the slightest thing.  So listen to them, and no this doesn't mean rolling your eyes at them or making disgusted faces....emphatically listen no matter how hard it kills you.  And we've all been there, it is HARD!!

2. Reassure/validate/empathize - this is not easy...especially when you have someone yelling and questioning your competence.  But, stay the course as a professional and empathize with where they are coming from no matter how far out it may be.  Remember, they are acting this way for a reason; it likely has nothing to do with you.  Don't take things personally - this was one of the biggest things that I had to learn when I first started as a pharmacist. 

3. Offer a solution or better yet, ask your patient for the solution.  What do they need to get out of this so that they feel like something is resolved?  This may just be you listening, it may be you explaining or providing information.  It may be something out of your control, but let them put it out there and usually there is a way to find some middle ground.

4. Don't rehash after the interaction:  there is a big tendency to replay the uncomfortable situations in your head or talk about them with other pharmacists or techs or your spouse.  Just let it go . . . . replaying the situation in your mind only keeps it alive.

We don't always act like we should, and in those cases, we have to move on as well.  There are always a lot of things going on at work and with our life outside of work.  It is VERY hard not to mix the two - especially when we work so closely with everything and our lives are intermixed.  Work politics may be bothering you, you may be short staffed, your child may be sick, you may have gotten into a fight with a good friend, or maybe you haven't had a chance to eat yet.  All of these thing can contribute to people not behaving like they should - this goes for both sides.

One other acronym that may be helpful for a patient-centered experience is something that the Baptist Leadership Group taught at my most recent hospital.  The acronym relate stands for ReassureExplainListenAnswerTake ActionExpress Appreciation.  

Healthcare is starting to focus more on customer service.  A hospital's quality ratings are publicy reported as well as other statistics and patients have more knowledge about their care.  A lot of times, patients have a choice where they can go get their care which is why the little things matter - they set you apart and take your institution from good to great. 

WellnessJoanna Simmon