An addendum to last week’s blog…
After a lovely three day weekend, I dreaded going to work. That’s not like me. I normally like my job.
Now, I have a theory (which also appears in the mouth of my main character Jackson in “The Liberty Box”): emotions are a symptom of a problem, nothing more. Negative emotions tell you there’s a problem in one of three areas: either there’s something wrong in your circumstances, there’s something wrong with your biochemistry (hormones or neurotransmitters), or there’s something wrong with your thinking. Your job is to figure out which it is — only then can you identify the appropriate course of action and correct the problem.
So I asked myself: “Self, why are you dreading going to work?”
Answer: “Because people are jerks.”
Next question: “Why are they acting like that?”
Answer: “Because I let them.”
One of my favorite non-fiction books is “Boundaries,” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s about:
- Protecting yourself from those who want to take something from you that you don’t want to give (without feeling guilty for doing it),
- Protecting others from you if you happen to be the sort of person who makes inappropriate demands, and
- Protecting you from you, if you lack the discipline to deny yourself instant gratification for the purpose of longer-term gain.
The basic premise of the book is this: it is good to give to others, but you must do so only if you have the resources to give AND you want to give. If you feel coerced or manipulated into it, then both you and the other person are better off if you say no, because saying no when you want to or need to is what makes authentic and loving relationships possible.
Saying no might not actually *lead* to a loving and authentic relationship, though… it might lead to the end of a relationship based on manipulation. But that kind of relationship is unhealthy anyway, and you’re better off without it.
So after praying about specific ways to implement this, I sent my office manager a long email of new policies — one of which was, never let anybody be rude to you! If they try, call them out on it and insist they treat you with respect. Some of them won’t, and they’ll leave the practice. (And good riddance, in that case who wants them anyway!?) But others will own it and apologize. Most people don’t actually mean to be jerks… they might not even realize they’re acting that way. But if you *don’t* call them out on it, then you’re teaching them that that kind of behavior is acceptable. And the next thing you know, you’ve created a monster.
So this week, one new patient phone consult abruptly told me when I called her that I’d called the wrong number, told me to call her cell phone instead, but said to “give her a minute.” I did, and called back a minute later. No answer. I called back again — still no answer. Phone consults with new patients are free, so I was starting to get annoyed. I left a message that I was sorry I’d missed her and she would have to reschedule later. When she called back, she told my office manager, “Can you just put the doctor on the phone for a few minutes now?” Actually the patient behind her had cancelled, so I was available—but my OM told her sweetly, “No, I’m afraid she’s not available.” So the lady rescheduled, sheepishly… and she was MUCH nicer the next time we talked.
One patient showed up 24 minutes late for a 30 minute appointment (and quite frankly, her 30 minute appointments usually are 45 minutes to an hour long anyway, which pushes me behind for the rest of the day.) Ordinarily I would have taken her anyway when she showed up, and suffered the consequences myself for her poor planning… but this time, I said no. (Heck no!) She rescheduled.
We’ve also started enforcing our missed appointment fees, because it’s been absurd lately how many people have cancelled at the last minute without a good excuse, and without even offering an apology. Also, when my OM tells patients about the fee, some who had intended to cancel have changed their minds and come after all!
And guess what? I don’t dread coming to work anymore! Amazing what a difference it makes when you enforce consequences for bad behavior.
(Maybe if I were a mom, I’d have learned this a long time ago. Then again, judging from some of the kids I see in the grocery store, maybe not…)