Communication faux pas

Picture the scene: your three-year-old wakes at night screaming as if placed in boiling fat. She is uncontrollable. After 30 minutes without change you call NHS direct and get a midnight appointment for the hospital. There, the doctor can find no accountable reason for the agony, whose only brief respite in noise is because of exhaustion. You’re recommended to take her to another hospital specialising in paediatrics and have her observed over night.

At the second hospital, a charge nurse examines her, followed by another doctor. Again they draw blanks and find nothing and leave us to our panic.

Doctor #2 returns a while later and examines again. The doctor goes deadly silent and closes her eyes for over a minute. You stare at your wife trying to keep your heart from creeping out of your throat. The doctor fans her own face to stop tears falling in an obviously heartfelt display of real emotion and says, “I have a baby myself [she’s really welling up now] and I’ve just said a prayer for yours.”

BOOM. Where’s the priest to administer last rights? The room is spinning and I feel sick.

Thank heaven that doctor #3 appears at the end of this prayer and after a short examination declares the problem to be tonsillitis. Within 30 minutes of some extra drugs my daughter was bouncing on the bed shouting, ‘Look at me, daddy.’

Never underestimate that one tiny sentence can radically change the whole outlook of a meeting. What we say and what others’ hear can be completely different things – isn’t that worthy of discussion with your team before their next negotiation?

Image credit: Nelson Santos

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