Friday, May 25, 2012

Play Nice


With a title like “Play Nice” in a blog that’s mainly about motherhood, you would think that this blog entry would be about teaching my children to share their toys or not hit each other. But it’s not about children learning to be nice to each other. It’s about adults being nice to each other – or sometimes not.

Several months ago, my doctor scheduled me for my first mammogram. I wasn’t having any problems, but I was 43 and had been busy having babies since I turned 40, so I had never had one. I was still nursing at the time, but the doctor assured me that as long as I pumped right before my appointment, it would be fine. I am quite medical-phobic, so between that and the fact that I had a new baby and hadn’t slept more than 3 hours in a row for several months (not to mention still being completely hormonal), I was pretty much a basket case when I arrived at the office. With shaking hands, I completed an absurdly extensive questionnaire in the waiting room that asked me pretty much everything EXCEPT whether I was nursing. The technician called me in without introducing herself or making any pleasantries. I attempted to make a bit of small talk in order to ease my own anxiety, and mentioned in passing that I had a new baby. She made a face and grumped, “You’re not NURSING, are you?” I told her I was but assured her that I had pumped before I came, like my doctor had told me. She literally rolled her eyes and told me in a very annoyed voice that they couldn’t possibly do a mammogram on me. She never offered to call my doctor and check if there was a reason she had ordered the scan now, she never apologized for the miscommunication, she never even offered to reschedule my exam. She just kind of stared at me blankly like I was an idiot. Needless to say, I left the office in tears.

This morning, I went in for another try. This time I had a different technician (thank God), who immediately introduced herself and asked me how I was doing. She made some small talk that put me at ease and carefully explained what she would be doing. When she asked if I had had a mammogram before, I gave her a brief summary of my previous experience. She clucked sympathetically and told me it was too bad I’d had to go through that, and reiterated how important it was to be able to get a clear baseline image. She assured me that she would be able to get a good clear scan this time. She was gentle but firm, apologized for my discomfort, and just generally made the experience as not unpleasant as possible. In other words, she was NICE. And that made all the difference in the world.

Now, it may be that the first technician was having a lousy day. It may be that I was the third patient that week who had been incorrectly told by a doctor that a scan could be done while nursing. It may be that her hemorrhoids were acting up. But whatever her problem was, it would have made both of our lives a lot more pleasant if she had tried to be a little nicer. A little nice goes a long way. If she had put me at ease, it would have made her life a lot easier, too. A comfortable patient is a cooperative patient. After all, nice is contagious. When you’re nice to people, they’re more likely to be nice to you. And conversely, when you’re grumpy and unfriendly, the people around you become grumpier and more unfriendly as well. It’s a vicious circle.

So let’s all try being a bit nicer to each other. After all, if 2- and 3-year olds can learn to “play nice,” can’t we all?

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