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How to Deal with an Annoying Medical Practice Coworker


People are often oblivious to their irritating habits. Here are strategies for dealing with three types of irksome behavior.

It can be hard to get over things that get under our skin. While colleagues are often oblivious to their irritating habits, the rest of us go stir-crazy looking for ways to ignore their eccentricities. Unfortunately, it seems the more we try to minimize their mannerisms the more magnified those mannerisms become.

How can you diplomatically deal with other people's peculiarities? These suggestions will equip you to cope with three kinds of irksome quirks.

1. Frustrating physical habits

Even when there are medically sound reasons for someone's repetitive throat clearing, nose sniffling, or deep sighing, being around a person with these chronic behaviors can be off-putting.

When dealing with someone exhibiting these habits, it's best to begin by presuming they have an underlying condition such as GERD or post-nasal drip. You can explore this by asking if they are even aware of their persistent sniffles and sighs. Though you're not in the position of being a diagnostician in this circumstance, it may be appropriate for you to suggest they mention these symptoms to their physician. While they explore potential diagnoses, you need to grin and bear it.

It can be equally challenging to cope with idiosyncrasies like habitual whistling, humming, and tabletop drumming. What brings a grin to one person's face can grate on another person's nerves.

Once a medical cause for these behaviors has been ruled out, you can cautiously proceed to the next step; letting them know that you find their habit distracting and asking if they can please try to control it.

Whether the irritating issue is medical or melodious in nature, you must be sensitive when you bring it up. It's better to have a respectful, private conversation with the offending party than to reach your breaking point and shout, "Stop doing that! You're driving me mad!"

2. Exasperating emotional habits

Are staff members not getting along at your practice? Are physician-management relations strained? Do you have a question about proper #patient etiquette? E-mail your problem to We will keep your question anonymous, but Sue Jacques, The Civility CEO, could share some guidance in print and online!

Two common emotional habits that get old fast are chronic complaining and colleague parenting. What is colleague parenting? That's when someone constantly questions and advises you by saying things like, "Have you taken a break for lunch yet? You need to eat!" or, "What took you so long? You should have been able to examine that patient in two minutes."

In their minds, these "helicopter coworkers" have your best interests at heart. It just doesn't feel that way when you're on the receiving end of their coddling. You can nip this behavior in the bud by letting your colleague know that you're perfectly capable of taking care of yourself and there's no need for her to oversee your routines. Keep in mind that these caring people can be easily hurt if you're too harsh, so soften the blow by pre-empting your comments with a word of thanks for their concern.

Chronic complainers are more challenging to deal with because they tend to see the world through ipecac-colored glasses. Usually, nothing you can say or do will sway their glass-half-empty perspective. You can only get past their doom and gloom by focusing on your own positive attitude. The downside to this is that the chasm between your perkiness and their pessimism may continue to grow, putting you in the position of becoming yet another thorn in their side.

3. Conflicting communication habits

Failure to listen leads to failure to thrive - in relationships, that is. Some people are so anxious to express what's on their mind that they'll routinely cut to the chase by interrupting or finishing your sentences for you. Others, who have less confidence in their communication skills, may mumble or become mute when asked to chime in.

When someone interrupts you, make eye contact while raising your hand a bit and say, "Please let me finish this thought and then the floor is all yours. Thanks." If that doesn't work, take the oral offender aside and politely inform them that in future you'd appreciate the chance to say what you have to say before they interject with their point of view. You may need to reinforce this appeal by reminding them about your request each time they verbally butt in.

When dealing with people who are less communicative, invite their input by asking direct questions and engaging them in conversation. They may feel intimidated or insecure, but the more dialogue you can create, the more expressive they're likely to become. You can gain their trust by letting them know how much you value their contribution to the conversation.

No matter what annoying habits are bothering you, there's no need to sacrifice your saneness by staying silent. But before speaking out, take a look at yourself. Is there anything you're doing that might be irritating others?

Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO®, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, professional speaker, and author. Jacques helps individuals and businesses gain confidence, earn respect, create courteous corporate cultures, and prosper through professionalism.

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