A Positive Formula for Busy Times

Brenda Robinson

We live in busy busy times. Our intuitive response is to see this as a problem. We use the refrain “I’m so busy,” as a reason to see our work from a problem perspective.

Can we reframe that to celebrate being busy by approaching it in positive, productive ways?

When our “busyness” comes across to our patients and clients we may give a message of impatience or a hurried approach. We need to work hard to find the balance for ourselves and for our customers or clients. We need a strategic approach to support us in doing our work in a way that helps us and helps those receiving our services to feel engaged, involved and included in the process and activities required.

There are many helpful strategies. In this little article, we will explore 8 tried and true approaches to apply in the work you do.

Strategy #1: Take time to meet and greet people in meaningful ways. Look at people, smile and make a connection. The first 8 words you say are the most important words to engage and include. Pay attention to your tone. Never allow yourself to discount the importance of greetings:

Good morning – good to see you.

Hello – you’re here early today.

Good afternoon – how is your day going?

Hello – happy to see you again.  

The greeting is like investing time now to save time later. The greeting shows others that we care. Get off to a good start.

Strategy #2:  Personalize the experience. The exchange of names is one of our best connecting features. Share your first names. Wear a visible name tag. When you look at the intake information, use the person’s first name. Ask for help to pronounce each name correctly. Use the name as you give direction.

Personalization increases the patient or client comfort zone. Get in the habit of using names.

Could you sit over here, Diane?

Could I ask you to hold this position David?

Allison, could you repeat your birthday for me?

Marianne, will you wait for me in room 4?

Positive tone is easy to use when we personalize. It is difficult to pronounce your own name in a negative way. We say names with consideration and respect.

Strategy #3: Break the old habit of apologizing. “I’m sorry,” “Unfortunately,” “I apologize” and “We regret” all lead people to believe something negative will follow. Ask your clients and patients to focus on the services they will receive. It does not help to apologize for things you cannot change or things that have already happened.

Consider preparing differently for some of the situations where you might intuitively apologize:

For example:

I’m sorry you had to wait so long. We are very busy this morning.

Try instead:

Thank you for being so patient. We are working as quickly as we can to address a busy morning.

For example:

I’m sorry, you will have to make a separate appointment for that.

Try instead:

That test requires a little more time. Could we arrange a separate appointment for you?

Strategy #4: Choose vocabulary that engages clients and patients in positive expectations and anticipation. Focus on what can and will be done instead of what can’t or won’t be done:

For example:

You’ll have to wait here until Chad is available to complete the process.

Try instead:

Chad is doing his very best to complete his scheduled tests this morning. As soon as he is available, he’ll be here to conduct your test. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

For example:

These tests take a lot of time to complete. You will have to be patient.

Try instead:

We will take the time needed to complete these tests. We want to do them effectively and carefully. Thanks for understanding that.

Strategy #5: Use language that presents confidence in your processes and activities. Your confidence will build confidence in your patient or client.

For example:

Sometimes we have to do this test more than once to get accurate data. I hope not, but it may have to be done again.

Try instead:

We do everything we can to ensure that the data collected is accurate. We will even do a test more than once to ensure that your results are accurate. You can count on us to do that if necessary.

For example:

I hope we can have you on your way in 15 minutes. I can’t promise.

Try instead:

We will do our best to get you on your way in 15 minutes. We will, however, take the time needed to ensure the outcomes you need.

Strategy #6: Ask instead of tell. When people are feeling vulnerable, worried or hesitant the emotions turn on. When the emotions turn on, the brain shuts off. In order to engage people positively, we need to engage their brains. The best way to get people “thinking” instead of “emoting” is to ask questions and cause them to get thinking about the answers.

Questions could involve direction or actions required. Or, they may just involve affirmation or confirmation. Asking instead of telling encourages engagement and support.  It also facilitates involvement and inclusion.

Sample Questions:

 Could I ask you a few questions before we begin?

Would you repeat and spell your last name?

Can you let me know when you are ready to begin?

Have you had this test before?

Do you have any questions before we begin?

Could I ask you to give me 2 or 3 minutes before we begin?

Strategy #7: Provide your patients and clients with specific information to support their understanding of the activity or process you are about to conduct. Actual numbers, measures and specific terms help patients feel that they are aware and prepared. This builds comfort and confidence and an expectation of a positive interaction.

For example:

This test involves 4 stages. Each stage takes approximately 8 to 10 minutes to complete.

This process will take 2 ½ to 3 minutes to complete.

The results are usually ready in 20 to 30 minutes. As soon as they are ready, we can move ahead with the next test.

Could we ask you to be sure to drink the fluid within 30 minutes?

We can give you a 10 minute and a 5 minute reminder as we approach the 30 minute guideline.

We anticipate a wait time of 11 to 15 minutes. Will be ready by then.

Strategy #8: Be aware of your non-verbal communication. (The expression on your face, the posture you display, the pace or intensity of your walk, the tone of your voice.) Remember that over 70% of any message is non-verbal.

When we are busy, we often exude impatience or the “hurry” syndrome. We may think that we haven’t verbalized any of this. The patient or client is watching and listening to your non-verbal messaging. What does it say?

In busy times, we need our patients and clients to hear and see that we are doing our best to provide good service. However, we have to hear it ourselves. Try these strategies to support you to stay positive and productive in busy busy times. We aren’t just busy being busy, we are achieving important and engaging results.

Use these strategies to help you reframe the problem and celebrate the achievements. Being busy can be a challenge or a chore.

Let’s go for the challenge. We’re up for it!

Brenda is a speaker, trainer, writer and consultant. She has been addressing groups for over twenty years on topics related to communications, humour, laughter, positive working skills and wellness in general.


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