Post by Patricia Capone, OMS III
You walk into a room to update a patient on your assessment and plan of care. You do a great job of explaining the diagnosis and your plan to send the patient home with close outpatient follow up, when the patient’s family member, who is a physician, says, “ Well, I don’t disagree with you.”
Why do people use this double negative?
Typically someone will use this verbiage when they are trying to acknowledge that they agree with part of what you are saying, but there is a part that they don’t entirely agree with or that they want clarification on. Before completely agreeing with you and ending the conversation, they want to know that you have considered or are willing to consider any additional options that they have thought about.
What happens when we are on the receiving end of this verbiage?
In many cases, it is natural to have a visceral response to this double negative, even if the person did not mean any harm by it. Often this visceral response stems from the level of uncertainty that comes with “I don’t disagree”. This statement leaves you unclear about whether or not the other person agrees with you after all the energy you put in to make sure they understood your viewpoint. It is important to acknowledge the visceral response and then open the door for more questions in order to get to the bottom of the disconnect. Asking more questions can help you to understand what part of your viewpoint they do not agree with and will give you the information you need to validate that you have considered or are willing to consider their point of view. This validation can provide clarification that can help both parties walk away from the conversation feeling like they accomplished something as a team, rather than leaving one side feeling unhappy and unheard.
What can we say instead of “I don’t disagree” that might be a little more clear?
- Can you explain to me why you think that?
- We have differing opinions. What things are you picking up on that lead you in a different direction?
- I agree with you that [insert part of their argument that you agree with], however I think that [insert your additional point] is also important to consider.
- I feel like I don’t have enough information to form a complete opinion. Can you tell me a little more about that?
About Our Guests: Dr. George Willis, MD is the Assistant Program Director at University of Maryland. Dr. Tarlan Hedayati, MD is the Assistant Program Director of Cook County Emergency Medicine.
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