“Do I always have to be politically correct?”
Dr PS sent in this question last week. Of late I’ve realized with younger generations of patients communication seems to be misunderstood. My patient’s are offended if I tell them they’re fat or if they’re smokers or addicts. My question is why can’t I be honest? Do I have to be politically correct?
I won’t mince words. The current climate has become extremely negative. People complain about everything because they can and have an audience that will listen. So, my answer is, yes. You have to be politically correct. Here’s the trick to doing it.
Try more Tact
Being tactful can go a long way. Using medical terms could probably help. Instead of fat, there’s no harm in saying overweight, stage 1 obesity or stage 2 obesity. Instead of addiction, say dependence. Clinical terms are correct and if you could be tactful, no one’s feeling will be hurt
You shouldn’t have to lie. I think the worst thing you can do is lie or sugar coat things for patients. Even at the risk of losing patients, it’s in the best interest of the patient to be honest. Honesty is correct.
Check your Tone
If you’re being condescending then patients will resent you. No one enjoys being talked down to. You may want to sound strict or straightforward but listen to yourself while you’re talking. How do you sound?
I’m sorry if I don’t have a more politically “correct” answer but with the shape our world is in right now, people don’t want to hear the truth and while we have to have the courage to call things as they are, we also need to make sure patients are encouraged to take the advice offered to heart by changing their health for the better. You can read this book by Micheal Williams on how it all started.