Yes, these are character flaws, and no, it’s not your job to fix them. It is your job to manage expectations, because they are your clients.
Ethical responses – i.e., ones that affirm the dignity and worth of the other person – would include:
Always, always be responsive and courteous, and always be patient. Rarely easy, true, especially if you think the other person doesn’t deserve it, but these things are what you want for yourself, right?
Aim for empathy. If their anger or arrogance stems from fear (of the unknown, or their disease progression, of loneliness, or loss of independence, et cetera), then you are not their real problem, so you don’t need to take any attacks personally – meaning you don’t become defensive but do become sympathetic.
Always be honest. Some people don’t want to hear the truth, but dishonesty towards others devalues and disrespects them. Be tactful, diplomatic, and kind, but always truthful.
Listen to what is said, and what is not said. Listen to understand, not just to respond. People feel validated when they are heard, so just hearing them out may go a long way toward leading them to where they need to be.
Explain the reason for what’s happened. If mistakes genuinely were made, apologize. Perhaps there are things beyond your control – budgetary limitations, for example, or regulations from local, State, or Federal entities – which you could summarize for them. People can tolerate almost any difficulty as long as they know why things are the way they are.
Try to accommodate. Maybe they want the moon but would settle for something far more reasonable. Most people are willing to negotiate if they trust you.
That last point bears repeating: Make sure you are credible and dependable. Being caring and empathetic, communicating clearly, and helping them have honest, reasonable expectations are crucial in leading your clients and constituents. But the impact these can have is greatly diminished if you’re not perceived as being trustworthy.
Pause and consider: Are you able to accomplish responsive and courteous replies to your most difficult patients or residents? What adjustments might you be able to make to improve this?
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