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You lose patients when you lose patience

A doctor injecting medicine into a baby's forearm

The most important skill in specialized, technical jobs is often non-technical. It’s communication. Either the critical importance of getting someone to communicate exactly what they need so you understand it. Or the importance of communicating the results of your technical work. The more technical or complex your line of work, the more this tends to be a blind spot. This is why the term “absent-minded professor” comes to mind. Or “preoccupied”. 

A professional may be so wrapped up in the complexity of their work they may forget some basic interpersonal skills. This is why your physician might be looking at your chart when they walk in the examining room instead of looking at you. Or why your computer professional may be focused on your computer but not stopping to check if it actually works for “you”.

Some of the most gifted technical people can miss the (seemingly) simplest essentials of communication. Excellent technical results get overshadowed by poorly delivered explanations, or inaccurate assumptions.

It’s ok that IT people aren’t great with this. It’s ok to accept that as long as you decide to accommodate it. Just saying “yeah, that’s not a strong point” isn’t enough. In order to be successful, sustain a career, and avoid a tremendous amount of frustration and resentment you have to either surround yourself with people who do have these skills, or use tools to help augment your shortcomings.

Doctors lose patients because they lose patience. They’re just not good at the bedside manner part. Their internal voice says:

  • “I told them this would happen. Why didn’t they listen?”

  • “They could have looked this up themselves, they’re being lazy”

  • “This is common sense”

  • “They didn’t do what I told them to, this is the side effect of it – rather than go into I-told-you-so mode, I’m just not going to say anything”

  • “They wanted to save money, so I helped them. Now they’re blaming me because the crappy alternative I helped them get is disappointing? Really?!!”

  • “I don’t have time to both do my job and babysit their incorrect assumptions about this”

The doctor has a very full schedule. If they stop to say “hey, Johnny, this shot is gonna hurt a bit, but then it’s going to be all better. Are you ok with that?” they’ll not see as many patients that day. But Johnny will certainly appreciate it. And the family can pick another pediatrician. The things people usually dislike aren’t technical, they’re interpersonal. And you’re not good at that part. Just accept it. That’s why you’re an IT person. It’s ok. You do hard stuff and it helps people. But if you ignore the importance of being patient with people, you’re going to lose them.

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