Jump to content

"Perhaps": Finding New Ways to Be Kind in Nursing

Published
jeastridge jeastridge, BSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

How can we as nurses create a kinder world?

Being kind never goes out of style. This article discusses ways that good manners can help us create more civil discourse.

"Perhaps": Finding New Ways to Be Kind in Nursing

The snippets of conversation among co-workers on the floor revealed the level of antagonism as each expressed their dismay over recent political events. I side-stepped the conversation and moved along but not before hearing enough to make my heart beat faster, my blood pressure creep up and a slight pounding in my temples. Along with the stresses of COVID-19, our country finds itself sitting on a major fracture. Not only do we hold wildly dissimilar views, we are suddenly emboldened to become evangelists for our cause, proselytizing ineffectively on both sides of the aisle.

Whether in nursing or any other field of work, we are all navigating new territory related to self-expression, social media and activism. What has happened and how do we move forward?

book-what-do-you-say-dear.jpg.7b6a6c03de51e7856c7c078037be89ff.jpg

Recently, I unearthed an old children’s book to read with my grandkids. What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin, is a timeless book that helps children—and adults—learn good manners. One of the vignettes has a nurse bandaging a child’s hand injured by a dinosaur bite. The victim offers a sincere “thank you” and the nurse replies with an appropriate “You’re welcome!” The book is silly and over the top but strangely relevant in these times where we seem to have forgotten our manners.

  • How can we re-discover civility and good manners while still expressing ourselves?
  • How can we fight against injustice and oppression while still working with and influencing others for good?
  • How can we maintain healthy and thriving relationships with those who don’t think like we do?

Without a doubt, it is important to speak up and call out bigotry and racism. Perhaps there is a way to counter society’s cancers with treatments that include civility.

Maybe we can take a page from the children’s book and adopt some basic good manners.

1- Listen well to others

People long to be listened to. Really heard. Ironically, in a time of social media where opinions blaze hot and spread like wildfire, the speakers are often left feeling empty and misunderstood as the arguments and counter arguments pour fuel on the heat or smoother any flicker of life with a wet blanket of condemnation. Listening well works at work, at home, at church. It doesn’t mean agreement. It might mean asking a simple question for clarification. It might mean postponing the conversation if it gets too heated. It certainly means being genuinely polite and kind. Every person has a life of experience behind them. Every person is on a journey. Every person is in the process of changing. We can be agents of gentle influence or  of corrosive decay.

2- Sometimes being kind is more important than being right

How often we forget this! In our zeal for correcting all wrongs, we walk all over people’s thoughts and opinions, blindly pouring out our store of great knowledge for them to see the error of their ways and thoughts. How often does our righteous zeal bring anyone around? How often does our thinly veiled pride provide the intended results? I was taking a graduate class once and the professor encouraged us to start our answers to one another with the word “perhaps.” As in: perhaps there is another way to look at this. Perhaps we don’t know everything yet on this topic. Perhaps I need to read more and get back to you. Perhaps. It’s a magic word. It allows room for both parties to breathe.

3- Be humble

This point is likely to be as unpopular as an opposing political/social view! Who wants to sign up to be humble? And yet. Acknowledging that we may not know all there is to know can be the beginning of beautiful things. I hope that all of us have progressed in our thoughts and views as the years have gone by. People do change. Information comes out that focuses the lens and sharpens the outline of the situation. Looking back and reflecting on past opinions and perspectives can make us all take silent stock of where we are and consider that we may not know all there is to know at this time. Perhaps.

4- Don’t just say something

If you don’t know what to say, maybe refrain. Consider sleeping on it and rejoining the conversation —or not—at a later time. On social media, we see evidence of friends and family filling the space opining in ways that may not be helpful in the future but will be very hard to retract. Once said, always said—that is the problem. While the speaker may go on and finesse their views and come to new and enlightened perspectives, their stated views hang out in virtual space into posterity.

5- Build bridges and tear down walls

When our political, social, moral, religious values diverge, it is tempting to wall off the relationship and no longer pursue friendship. People make mistakes. They may not apologize. But holding grudges burdens us, not them. It also pollutes our lives with unnecessary weight and clouds our vision with uncharitable thoughts. We don’t have to agree, but we do have to continue to work together, cooperate, communicate. Perhaps we can give the other person the benefit of the doubt? There is a song that says, “We are more than the sum of our past mistakes…” Having an attitude of kindness, tolerance and forgiveness toward others can not only relieve us of our burdens but it can keep the lines of communication open dynamically allowing for change to cross.

Perhaps ...

Perhaps in these days of sound bites and video clips…perhaps in these days of incessant media bombarding us with images…perhaps in these days when our phones substitute for a friend…perhaps it is time to stop and take stock.

  • Do we remember the basics?
  • Do we practice good manners?
  • Do we default to kindness?

In the children’s book mentioned above, the main character accidentally bumps into the angry snout of a crocodile. Just when it looks like things might go seriously awry, she turns around and says, “Excuse me!” Her simple apology allows life to go on.

Perhaps.

Joy is a Faith Community Nurse who enjoys hiking and playing with her grandkids in her spare time.

124 Articles   530 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3 Comment(s)

ThursdayNight, CNA

Specializes in Wiping tears. Has 3 years experience.

 I should have printed this and hand it to the nurse.

Edited by ThursdayNight

nursel56

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 45 years experience.

Thank you so much for this article, especially the part about humility. I think it's a characteristic of strong people, not weak people.

I'm a firm believer in the concept that I can maintain friendships despite the increasingly incendiary (it seems to me anyway) political environment that is certainly amplified by social media. My willpower has been severely tested on facebook, in particular. grrrrr I need a padlock. 🤐

I would imagine it would be much more difficult for me if these encounters occurred in the hallway or the breakroom at work. Thankfully, I never encountered too much of that. 

I love the idea of learning from children's books in general, though. I admit that as someone who was plagued with workplace anxiety in the past I've thought about the classic Dr. Suess story "What Was I Scared Of?" involving a boy and a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them! 

jeastridge, BSN, RN

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

4 hours ago, nursel56 said:

Thank you so much for this article, especially the part about humility. I think it's a characteristic of strong people, not weak people.

I'm a firm believer in the concept that I can maintain friendships despite the increasingly incendiary (it seems to me anyway) political environment that is certainly amplified by social media. My willpower has been severely tested on facebook, in particular. grrrrr I need a padlock. 🤐

I would imagine it would be much more difficult for me if these encounters occurred in the hallway or the breakroom at work. Thankfully, I never encountered too much of that. 

I love the idea of learning from children's books in general, though. I admit that as someone who was plagued with workplace anxiety in the past I've thought about the classic Dr. Suess story "What Was I Scared Of?" involving a boy and a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them! 

Thanks for your post. I applaud your efforts to stay the course, even in times where opinions and divergent political stances can pull us apart. All the best to you! Let's keep learning from our children's books. Joy