Words have power. You know how the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones” ends, but it simply is not true. Words said by people who are in a care-giving role are even MORE powerful.
Once when I was in the hospital after a laparoscopy, I had urethral spasms that left me unable to “do it” myself. As if being catheterized every 6 to 8 hours wasn’t bad enough, late one night I had a nurse come in and say in a nasty tone of voice, “if you don’t do this on your own you’ll have to go home with a catheter.” Her tone of voice was ugly and condemning. Maybe she was irritated that she had to catheterize me again, as busy as she was, but the results were devastating. I collapsed into tears when she left the room, and had to call my spouse to come sit with me that night. And let me be clear, it was not the thought of going home with the urinary catheter that bothered me, it was the thought that I disappointed that nurse.
Most of the time, we do not necessarily say something mean or upsetting, but we have to remember that our words are not near as important as our tone of voice. A statement that seems innocent enough to us could be said in a way that upsets our clients. You can see this yourself: Take a phrase, something as simple as “your pet is going to be alright,” and say it with sincerity. Then say it again, but this time with a lack of sincerity, and you’ll FEEL the difference. That is what our clients feel.
But when you match a sincere, compassionate tone with a couple of positive-worded phrases, you have a powerful tool that can provide exceptional client service. It’s simple, quick and only requires the awareness to use them when appropriate.
In fact, I heard a phrase just this morning that I have never used but realized immediately how powerfully positive it could be. My mom is in the hospital, I am bedside as I write this. The group of nurses that I have met over the last 6 days have been nothing short of phenomenal, gives me hope for human healthcare in fact. As the night shift nurse left this morning, she said something to me that inspired me to write this blog, and reminded me that caring caregivers make all the difference in the world.
She simply said to me, “Thank you for letting me take care of your mother.”
Can you imagine the great feeling our clients would get if we said that about caring for their beloved pet? Try it. I think it has positive power.