Sunday, 25 May 2014

Cruelty or Kindness?

I've had this problem ever since I qualified as an Acupuncturist and started my practice. As it turns out, this problem is a recent manifestation of a pattern of behaviour that I've adopted for most of my life, and now that I'm aware of it, I have made it very much a work in progress.

The problem I've had is that of charging patients a fee for the late cancellation or failure to attend an appointment.

I've always prided myself in being flexible and have been eager to accommodate last minute rearrangement of plans. I've shown limitless patience and understanding towards people in general, particularly of late to patients who either change their appointments at the last minute or just plain fail to turn up ("I got my phone reminder five minutes ago but I'm in Braintree" - that type of last minute!). 

I've always smiled, shrugged and said "Oh never mind, just one of those things, happens to us all", in the hope that patients will re-book (which they mostly have done) and I've absorbed the inconvenience, the disruption to my work pattern and the cost of putting the heating on for two hours prior to the appointment.

When this degree of acceptance has been challenged in the past (by my clinical supervisor, my peers and my husband) I have justified my actions by saying things like "Such is life", "Can't be helped" etc, but mostly it was because I thought I was being kind.  In my mind, to make a charge for late cancellations or missed appointments would be a punishment for something that was unavoidable, and so would be cruel. There was also the resonance of knowing that actually I too was once that person who would change arrangements at the drop of a hat because someone or something else took priority.

And that's the crux of it.

I would allow other people and their arrangements to take priority over my own plans. But who was to say that their stuff was any more important than my own?It was purely my perception and I had chosen to put myself in second place - because I felt that other people were more important than me. And this is a mindset I'd adopted for most of my life.

That is, until I decided to change this mindset - and in so doing, also changed the habit of a life time.

I now put myself at the top of my list of priorities, especially when it comes to arranged appointments. And because I have greater respect for myself, I am able to consider my own arrangements important enough to take priority. This level of commitment also reflects the fact that I have, and show, an equal respect for the person with whom I have made the arrangement, and so I will keep to my word and will not let them down.

The minute I allow something else to take priority and fail to keep to a commitment, it immediately intimates to the other person that they are no longer as important to me at that moment as they were previously. It is one thing to have a lack of respect for yourself, but to disrespect others is lamentable. 

In conclusion, my perceived 'acts of kindness' were a total misconception. I was in fact denying myself respect - from others and well as from myself; I was enabling and actively encouraging disrespectful behaviour; and in relation to patients, I was denying them the opportunity to commit to looking after themselves and to gain their own self-respect. 

And how can we possibly expect others to respect us if we fail to respect ourselves?

I now regard my insistence on payment for late cancellation and failure to attend appointments as a true act of kindness. It would be a misconception to see it as a cruel, financial punishment.

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