Scripted Responses

Flew into Pensacola, Florida yesterday to prepare to conduct the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® course to staff working at a hospital here. Most of the participants are registered nurses. We also have staff from security, emergency preparedness, associate relations and clinical education. Quite a lively group with great ideas and tons of life/career experiences that apply to the crisis intervention situations we have discussed. One participant repeatedly stressed his belief in the power of letting individuals make their own choices during crisis moments. I wholeheartedly agreed and let him know how much the Institute supports his style of intervention.


This group also let me know that the hospital had stressed how important patient and customer satisfaction was and to that extent were given some scripted responses to use under certain circumstances. While it’s important that staff know what to say and how to say it, scripted responses can also have certain disadvantages especially if they come across as judgmental or self-absorbed. Examples I like to use are the phrases, “You need to…” or “I need you to…” For example, “You need to do the dishes so you can join us for movie night.” Or “I need you to take off your clothes and put on the hospital gown.” The response from an irrational or even rational thinking person could be, “Who are you to tell me what I NEED?” In the second example, one possible response might be, “What the heck do I care what YOUR needs are?” I’m not suggesting that these particular phrases are ineffective; I’m simply offering other options.


Can we put the limit in the form of an expectation? For example, “Once you’re done with the dishes you can join us for movie night.” Or, “I’ll be back in a few minutes to explain the testing procedure to you. Ring the call button once you’ve got the gown on.” Stating expectations helps to minimize the chance of a power struggle developing because we put the focus on the appropriate action and not our needs, wants and desires.


Instead of communicating our wants as in, “I want you to put out the cigarette. This is a no-smoking area.” Can we instead turn it into an ability question? “Can you please put out the cigarette? This is a no-smoking area.” This helps us frame the limit not around our wants and demands, but whether they can use more appropriate behavior and are able to comply. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have the ability to put out a cigarette. If they had the capacity to light one up, they should be able to put it out too.


Yet another technique is to use passive statements. Instead of, “I’d like you to complete your work so you can join the others for recess.” Rather, “As soon as the work is completed, you can join the others for recess.” This statement puts the spotlight on the action and then connects the individual to the benefit.


The voice qualities we use when dealing with irrational behavior are certainly important. But, having the ability to phrase limits in a way that is nonconfrontational can be equally important. So . . . I need all of my readers to offer comments on this blog. No, wait. Check that. Comments to this blog will get a timely response! That’s better.

Get more helpful hints about behavior management.

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“Define success by the degree of dullness in your day. A boring day is an indication that you’ve prevented and handled situations so well that it never made the evening news. That’s a good day!”