Consulting strategies

When one feels attacked unfairly, to react with anger is a natural human response. This response, however, must be avoided since it will damage the doctor-patient relationship and possibly aggravate the problem.

• The initial response should be to remain calm, keep still and establish eye contact.

• 'Step back' from the emotionally charged situation and try to analyse what is happening.

• Ask the patient to sit down and try to adopt a similar position (the mirroring strategy) without any aggressive pose.

• Address the patient (or relative) with appropriate name, be it Mr or Mrs Jones or a first name.

• Appear comfortable and controlled.

• Be interested and concerned about the patient and the problem.

• Use clear, firm, non-emotive language.

• Listen intently.

• Allow patients to ventilate their feelings and help to relieve their burdens.

• Allow patients to 'be themselves'.

• Give appropriate reassurance (do not go overboard to appease the patient).

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