I'm Just Not That Into You

Interpersonal skills are an important part of nursing. Interpersonal skills is described as the art of communication. It is communication between nurse and nurse, nurse and MD, nurse and patient. It is our ability to speak clearly and well, along with some active listening and really understanding what someone is trying to tell us. Being present and aware can help with the progression and use of interpersonal skills.


I'm Just Not That Into You

"Old nurses are just so mean!"

"Young grads are really mean!"

"The doctors are mean!"

"My co-workers are mean!"

"The patients are demanding and mean!"

How many times have we heard these very words? How many times have we experienced one (or all) of the above? Are people really mean, or is our ability to communicate interpersonally broken down to the point that every interaction ends with someone who is mean?

I believe mean can be subjective. My huge disclaimer is the fact that YES, some people are just miserable. That if the miserable person you deal with (or dare I say deals with you) is in your personal life, please get help for that. The purpose of this article is to talk about work related "mean-ness" and how interpersonal skills can help one cope.

Interpersonal skills take confidence. A nurse really needs to listen, and to try and understand what another is saying. There are things a nurse can not "fix". And that is OK, and it is OK to say "I am sorry you feel that way" and move on. By listening and understanding doesn't mean that it necessarily takes a nurse to internalize the content of the words, take them to heart, and have them hurt her/him to the core. Remember my golden rule of interpersonal skills: Some people just have no filter. And they will probably never have a filter, never learn how to get a filter, so the choice at work is how you deal with others effectively, using your own filter. The only control you have in any situation is the control that you create.

You can understand that what we say and how we say it can really have bearing on the type of reaction we receive. There are variables to this. Different cultural and/or cognitive needs can make the most innocent communication go painfully bad very quickly. So we should be mindful that we need to be clear and concise. As funny as we all may believe we are, as serious a situation is, clear and to the point wording can make all the difference.

I can not stress how important listening is in any interaction. When as professionals we are under stress, hearing "it all" over and over again, it is easy to hear, but harder to listen. So in order to respond to anything appropriately, listening is key. We all share the same goal, even if to whom you are speaking with thinks otherwise.

Eye contact is important. Speaking clearly and without slang, loud tone, tense speech. If we can at least try to empathize with another's issues, it can diffuse a tough situation into a more manageable one. Nurses can command respect from co-workers, patients and others when the right amount of empathy, a bit of finesse in choosing words, and really a matter of saying "I don't know but will find out" (in other words, honesty) become part of a routine.

Then there is the art of negotiation. If you give a choice of 2 things, then one of them is bound to be permissable. This is important as you attempt to get to the shared goal.

Never be afraid to clarify. Saying "I am not sure why you are angry" goes back to the honesty part of things. The only things I know to be true is that one can only control their own actions, their own words, their own intent. But you can also control your reaction and/or non-reaction to others.

It is, in my opinion, an important part of nursing to have good interpersonal skills. My great-grandmother was a nurse in WWII. She was amazing. And I am fortunate that I had her in my life until I was an adult. Her words were always "manners, always." I take that advice to heart, and I urge others to do the same.

jadelpn, LPN, EMT-B

51 Articles   4,800 Posts

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1,026 Posts

I quite agree, one has to learn to get along with everyone even the most difficult of them all.


16 Posts

Specializes in ICU, ER, PACU. Has 4 years experience.

Thank you for posting this. As a fairly new nurse in the ICU, I encounter that often. Yet I stay encouraged because you can experience this at any job. Interpersonal skills are extremely important to develop so we must do better with ourselves first.


294 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

You're right concise and to the point is what I've found to be the best approach. I think speaking with all different kinds of people from all over the country and world really help break down the fact that some people are not mean it's just they have a much different way of communicating and where they grew up that was the norm. I think for those people that think everyone is mean, maybe they need to not personalize comments. If they talk to you like that chances are they are like that with everyone.

The people that generally go around saying everyone is mean are the ones who do not speak up for themselves, I'm not talking being nasty but being assertive and expressing they way they talked to you was out of line. I have do this to those I work with and the amount of respect that comes out it is huge. People respect those who are straight-forward in a well-mannered way. By internalizing and then complaining about the way others are is a crummy way to live. Speak up, treat others with respect and be concise as you so perfectly stated.


55 Posts

Specializes in experienced in 11 areas of nursing.

Today I experienced again the hostility and sarcasm my co workers and supervisor can give. I don't know if adressing it will be best, I am kind of weary I may get an "are you crazy? " look. Most of the time I am a happy, smiling person I am not winning, just expressing my desilusion regarding my work environment. There are many factors why some behave that way. I just find myself trying to put on a way of carrying myself at work so I can get respect. Sometimes I get results when I show firmness and a subtle "don't bother me with non sense atitude) I see the change right away but I get tired of pretending because I love to laugh I love nursing and working with people that proyect a cheerful attitude

My coworkers smile but are too stiffed I can feel it in the air and in their comments. And most of the time I ended up as being their punching bag. It can be very stressful, maybe one day it will all be different.


20 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics, Adult Psych. Has 13 years experience.

Thank you for addressing this so important topic!

Patients KNOW when staff are irritable and unhealthily all tapped out. How can anyone heal anything in a negative, tense, unhappy environment? When we as staff treat each other poorly, it does not enhance our job performance. It does not make for a mistake-free environment. It does not add to patient satisfaction to know now that you were right, and the other guy wasn't.

The problem with healthcare from the very start is that the entire industry is constantly seeking problems and trying to find solutions. And the outcome when we fail is life threatening. This alone makes our jobs highly stressful. And sometimes, I think we take all the extra stress that we can't handle, and try to give it away to the other guy just so we can keep running to the next catastrophe waiting to happen. We need a lot of reminders that this is not the way to run our professions, our teams, our units, or our organizations. I think the change needs to run throughout organizations....not just among the floor staff. We as nurses need to set the expectation of mutual respect and support, learn to really listen to each other, and then recreate our floors into sanctuaries for healing, not just for our patients, but for each other.

I would LOVE to hear ideas on how this has happened for some of us, and how it could happen for the rest of us.

FranEMTnurse, CNA, LPN, EMT-I

2 Articles; 3,619 Posts

Specializes in LTC, CPR instructor, First aid instructor.. Has 26 years experience.

You posted this message with a lot of wisdom. Thank you.:up: