CanMeds Communicator
The angry patient

The angry patient



Being ill or unwell is stressful.  Having a family member unwell is also stressful.  These situations can lead to communication problems and intense emotions.  At times, people can become very upset and angry.  Learning to negotiate with patients and colleagues who are angry is an important skill.  One needs to learn to calm an angry situation and not  makes things worse.    Some useful tips are listed below.  These will help with the angry patient as well as angry family members or colleagues. 


When a Patient is Angry [5]

  • Pause and be attentive

  • Avoid being defensive

  • Stay curious about the patient’s story

  • Acknowledge the difficulty of the interaction

  • Find out the specifics of the story--encourage the patient to give the details

  • Express empathy for the patient--acknowledge the emotion by name

  • Make a statement guessing at the meaning behind the patient’s anger and validate

  • Take an action on the patient’s behalf if possible. Be an advocate

  • When possible, link the patient with the resources that can help

  • Transition to purpose for the visit


When in doubt- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!