Reactance theory outlines the consequences that occur when individuals perceive their freedoms are threatened or lost. Individuals believe they possess a set of “free behaviors” that they can choose to act upon at any time. The theory is based on the notion that people desire freedom of choice, and if this freedom is removed by external constraints then there will be a negative aversive response. A threat to free behaviors excites a motivational state, which is aimed at recapturing the affected freedoms and preventing the future loss of others.
Reactance occurs when individuals perceive an unfair restriction on their actions. Healthcare practices may unwittingly provoke a reactance response when patients and families do not fully understand or accept procedures or requests made of them. The Studer Group developed a framework for healthcare organizations to communicate with their patients and families. AIDET is an acronym for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, and Thank You. Using these five simple communication techniques can have a powerful effect on reducing agitation and increasing satisfaction with the perception of care.
Acknowledge: Greet visitors in the hallways, elevators, and cafeteria with a smile or a greeting. First impressions are lasting.
Introduce: Consistently introduce yourself by name and your role in the department and let your customers know that you or your coworkers are going to take care of them.
Duration: Always give the customer an estimate of how long he or she may have to wait and how long it will take you to complete the procedure. Keep the customer and their family informed about delays and how long it will be. After a test or procedure, explain how long it will take to get the results.
Explanation: Keep customers and families informed of what you are doing, how things work, if it will cause pain or discomfort, what they need to do to get assistance and if any follow-up instructions are necessary.
Thank you: Share your appreciation for the privilege of caring for your customers.