Note: This is a rewrite from the post formerly called Truth. The original post was OK but it didn’t feel completely true. Here’s a new and improved version. I included a bit more of my own ‘stuff’ this time around.
Generally, I speak up. I speak up during meetings or when I see an injustice. I do not shy away from confrontation. The one time I do clam up is when someone is talking down to me. Or shushing me…
Recently, I didn’t speak up. A doctor called me “aggressive”. He said the patients I care for could be afraid of me. It may have been a joke but it left me in shock and I went silent. I said nothing. The comment was delivered off-handed and without a chance to respond. It really hurt my feelings and shook me up. It was the second time he put me ‘in my place’ that week. Truly, the guy is a passive aggressive master.
I took the comment very personally. Why did his comment hit home? It took some time to unpack. I know I’m no shrinking violet and say what’s on my mind. I thought, maybe it is my problem. I’ve definitely had my moments. When I feel shut down or bullied, I freeze up. Inside, I’m transformed into my painfully shy six-year-old self. If the moment is short or a one off, I won’t do anything. Except carry around the interaction like a wet dog for a few days.
I know myself. If I’m repeatedly offended or have had several run-ins that day, I have lost my temper and unloaded. The times I’ve done this, I’ve acknowledged my behavior and apologized. In nearly ten years I have rarely unloaded at work and never on this doctor.
I may have frozen or walked away from him in frustration. I’m sure I’ve been short due to repeated poor interactions. Aside from that, I scrutinized how I approach this guy. Over several years, I’ve tried to be extra friendly then extra business-like and nothing changed. I asked fellow nurses what they thought. Several nurses had a story about this particular doctor’s behavior. They said things like, “oh that’s just him” and “he’s always rude”. Knowing this was not an isolated incident I decided to focus on facts.
- I often have patients thank me, give me hugs of gratitude and state they hope I’m coming back.
- I’ve had repeat patients sigh a breath of relief when I greet them in the morning.
- I have a good rapport with co-workers and other physicians.
- He has a reputation for this behavior.
- If I was a man, I wonder if I be called assertive.
WHAT HAPPENED? I can hear you yelling inside your head. I composed an email and didn’t send it.
Since ‘the incident’ I’ve seen him several times and avoided all contact. I’ve done nothing. Doing nothing is safe. It’s also painful. The words are waiting, sitting at the back of my throat. They beg to be heard. I know I can’t guarantee the words will be heard but I could say, “hey your comment was inappropriate and unprofessional”. I could tell him, “I don’t like the way you treat me, it makes working with you more difficult”. I will not unload or yell. I will not buy into the aggressive image he sees. Instead, I will practice being assertive and say something. Maybe I’ll write out a little note card ready for the next time I see him.
What do I have to lose? Clearly this doc and I aren’t ‘besties’ and I can’t imagine his treatment getting worse. Well maybe I could but frankly, I don’t care. My sister once told me “don’t wear it (the comment)” like it’s your truth. She’s very smart. I applied that great advice. I’m not going to ‘wear’ his comment. Instead I’m going to work on being more myself and own it.
I am not a shy six-year-old anymore.
I am assertive.
I do speak up.
Life/The Universe/God or whatever you believe in has a way of pushing us in the right direction. Since this run-in I’ve heard several women speaking up about terrifying and important issues. They’re tackling much bigger stuff than a rude doctor.