The Power of Silence – Say You’re Sorry and Just Shut Up
During a difficult conversation, silence can be very uncomfortable. In an effort to help someone feel better and to make ourselves less uncomfortable, we continue to talk. After breaking bad news, physicians often speak endlessly, describing the disease in detail or giving long speeches about the cause and physiology of the diagnosis. Remember that only about 10% of what is heard after the tragic news is delivered is actually retained.
Recognize that long speeches immediately after giving bad news are not only useless, but are usually aimed towards making ourselves less uncomfortable. Sitting silently with a patient and family after the tragic news is given tells the patient three things:
First, it says that you are comfortable being there with them.
Second, it shows that you are willing to stay with them and not looking to leave.
Third, it shows that they can count on you to be there for the next step.
So next time you feel the urge to keep talking, shut up and sit silently with your patient and their family.
Anthony Orsini, D.O.
Founder & President