When I started my career in health care nearly 20 years ago, I was struck by the compassion and care with which nurses and other professionals gave of themselves to their patients. It felt like home to me as I embarked upon my career as a caring professional.
But I also noticed how unhappy and stressed people were. I noticed that people who CARE often do not show that same level of compassion to themselves or to coworkers. In nursing, especially, there was an "eat their young" mentality.
Although today that mentality is changing, it is still a problem. Abuse and lateral violence continues. There is too much fear and not enough compassion, empathy, or love and respect for self and others. We CARE, but that care is not focused on ourselves.
Healthcare is not the only place where lateral violence exists. From corporate America to the small family business, there are mean, nasty behaviors that take place on a regular basis meant to humiliate and beat people down. These behaviors can often also be experienced at home.
It’s time to change that.
It’s time for us to "Take the Time to C.A.R.E. ©" about ourselves and each other – to change how we operate. "Take the Time" simply means that we need to take a step back and stop reacting the way we have done in the past. At that moment when you realize there is a choice as to how to approach a situation or person, you stop and take the time to consider new options – to CARE – using the "C.A.R.E." model below.
This model reflects our extraordinary capacity for compassion while integrating our need as human beings to be treated with respect and loving-kindness. Using this model every day, we can develop healthy work environments – and home environments – that nurture the best in ourselves and each other. Take a moment to consider the acronym C.A.R.E. in order to improve your relationships – with others and with yourself.
Communicate Clearly. Be direct in your communications. Use the acronym V.E.R.B.:
Vision – express clearly your vision for the department, the shift, your family, your romantic relationship, etc.
Expectations – people need clear expectations for behavior and for the delivery of their work. Without expectations, people do whatever they think they should, which may or may not be acceptable.
Requests – make direct requests for what you need. Teach people to treat you the way you want to be treated.
Boundaries – express boundaries by telling people clearly what is unacceptable to you. Teach people to stop doing things that feel bad.
Don’t assume that people know how to treat you. They don’t. And they communicate this to you by their behavior. People want to be great – they just don’t know how. By communicating clearly and directly, you teach them.
Appreciate Self and Others. Compliment and praise people freely and sincerely. Look for the good in others and tell them at every opportunity how wonderful they are and how much they mean to you. By looking for the good, you are less likely to judge and put down others. People want to please, so when you offer sincere praise, they will want to repeat the behavior. People are generally not accustomed to hearing positive feedback so make sure your message is heard.
Respect Differences. Each of us comes from different backgrounds, has different education and brings different perspectives. Be open to exploring possibilities. When you insist on being right or on having things be your way, you are not giving others the opportunity to have their own viewpoints. You essentially take away the individual’s right to be themselves. Respect is the foundation for all relationships. Trust cannot grow without respect. We need trust to be able to work together to accomplish our goals in meeting patient needs.
Employ Empathy. Try to understand where the person is coming from. This may be difficult especially during a conflict, but when you respect that not everyone had the same upbringing or value infrastructure, you realize that people behave badly often, not because they are bad people, but because:
They have poor self-esteem and do not feel good about themselves. If they did, they would never do anything to disrespect another human being.
They don’t know how to behave differently. This is what they know.
They are scared. Their poor behavior is a front.
They have no idea how their behavior impacts others. Most people don’t.
By learning to CARE for yourself and others using Communication, Appreciation, Respect and Empathy, the landscape changes. People start behaving differently in a caring environment. When people feel safe, they bring down their walls which hide the best of them; they are more productive and cooperative. And through your example, they learn to CARE too and like a virus, it spreads to create productive, enjoyable relationships that nurture the best of people – including you.