I have been told I have a high baseline.

I am a cheerful person.

I remain happy and positive when other people get bitter.

I do have my bad days.  I get sad like everyone else.

I am empathetic to a fault.  I put myself in people’s shoes to the point that I reflect and dwell on tough stuff sometimes too long.

Today, for the second time in my life, I was told today in a simulated communication session I am too cheerful.  That it puts people off in difficult situations because I seem like I am too busy frolicking through my day to really seem that I care.

I never want that to be what happens.  I care greatly for people.  And although my personality follows me, I have always thought that it shows through and that I seem caring and empathetic when I need to be.  Patrick jokes I have a “serious doctor voice.”

I would think if it were actually a problem that this would be feedback I would get more often.  That it would be a problem.  That I would notice it puts people off.

I adjust based on situations.  But, I am still me.  When I walk into a room, until I gauge a situation, I am who I am.  I adjust my tone of voice, I grasp when things are grim or sad.  But, if I don’t know for sure, I will offer a smile and an upbeat greeting.  It just seems polite to me.  You can be professional and empathetic, but also be a happy, positive person.

Do I really need to check my personality when I walk into a room?

Patrick thinks no.  And that if it were a real issue, it would come up more.  That I probably charm more people than I offend with my sunny disposition.  That I have always seemed appropriate when he is around in tough circumstances.

I get that personalities don’t always click.  And I am in a learning setting, so people will give feedback and not always agree with how I approach things.  Especially when that is what they are specifically looking for.  And I get sometimes I come on too chipper.  But, most of the time, does that colour an entire encounter?  Especially when I adjust based on the circumstance?  Or at least I thought I did.

How do  I process that when every other time, including the other three situations in this day, I have had nothing but praise (and of course, some more minor basic approach feedback)?  When the verbal feedback starts with pointing out that my personality is probably “cheerful”?  And basically only included that I was too cheerful coming in and initiating our conversation and how that colored our entire discussion that was too serious to start with such a friendly introduction.

I felt that the scenario didn’t go as well as I would have liked because I felt I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked and wound up trying to almost rush part of it… Because I tried to take more time to flesh out other stuff.  Because I thought that piece was as important as some of the later discussion stuff that in real life would be a dialogue over time or at least beyond the 12 minute timeline.  But I took that extra time early on for the other stuff because I care… That much.  Even if it is imaginary.

I didn’t cover everything because I ran out of time.  So, I didn’t get every tick box.   I didn’t miss stuff because I was avoiding it.  I missed it because I was trying to communicate effectively about the issues at hand.  And if it were graded, I still would have passed.

But, it bothers me.  Because I could have done better in that regard.  Had I had more time.  Or managed my time differently.    Yes, we have time limits.  Yes, there are ways to be efficient.  That is a fine thing to work on.  But, some things are just so important I think we should take our time.

But it bothers me more that cheerful disposition threw the person off…  Made them feel like we didn’t have a partnership.  Maybe made it more difficult to share.

I would never want that.

What if that happens other times and I don’t know?

When I was in Med 1, I had an SP tell me that I was too cheerful during a physical exam session.  That I should consider toning it down a notch sometimes.  But that it is good that I talk to people.  Just that I don’t always have to seem so happy to be poking them in the thyroid.

That is also how I sound when I get really nervous, interestingly enough.

I asked for feedback on my cheerfulness with others and there was no complaint the rest of the year.  So, I figured it was okay.  So long as I don’t let myself get too nervous.

In this case, I shifted when the mood shifted.  At least I thought so.  Initially, I was my chipper self, but I adjusted when we got serious.  I thought I adjusted to the mood in the room.  My voice was still too sunny early on, though.   Maybe I missed the boat?

But, do I really need to change my style?  Do I have to change me?

Or do I just chalk it up to a difference of opinion?  A one-off event?  A bad moment on my part or the person’s?  And maybe some nerves?

Or maybe it is somewhere in between…

The whole thing makes my head hurt.  I don’t know how to grapple with it.  Except to take it at face value and try to more consistently subdue myself before going into unknowns.   I don’t want to lose myself in the process, though.  Generally, it works for me.

I want to do what is best.

It is only the second time I had someone comment on my cheerful disposition negatively.  But, it hurt my feelings.  As foolish as that may be given the circumstance.


14 thoughts on “Cheerful

  1. Hee hee. I’ve been told that several times through med school and in the exact same session you were in today. Take things with a grain of salt. Your personality is part of what makes you a wonderful RO to be and that is a true blessing from God.

  2. What Dr. Bond said………plus from a “real” patient perspective I much prefer a cheerful or at least friendly doctor who really cares vs a blunt, grim doctor who seems to be just going through the motions (and I’ve had both types). I may be biased but DON’T CHANGE EVER FOR ANYONE for all the wrong reasons!The world needs more Cheerful people especially when dealing with bad news.

    • What he said above. In all seriousness, our patients need a warm and generous heart that goes along with that “cheerful disposition” as quite often, they are full of fears and deep anxieties over their cancer diagnnosis and what treatments will entail. If you ask what the ideal oncologist would be described as, the words “warm” , “compassionate” , and “caring” are often brought up. In the dictionary, your picture is there next to that description.

  3. Stay cheerful, upbeat, happy, positive. We need more people like you! Sounds to me like the other person has a problem, not you. I love my doctor and nurse. They are funny and happy. Her office is always full too? wonder why?

    Oh and as far as being offended. I use to get offended over the smallest details others said. Then God showed me I don’t have to be concerned with what other people think; all that is necessary is his opinion. Now, especially as a blogger I have been slandered, yelled at through cyber space, ridiculed, smashed, and hit lower than my feet; and it doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact I pray for those who do this because God has shown me to view them through his eyes….

    • Thanks!
      That is the conclusion I have drawn. I need to stay who I am because it seems to do good. And that is how God made me.
      It is tough to not get offended sometimes, but you are right. It matters more what God thinks. And sometimes being offended just hurts you more instead of providing any sort of benefit to anyone.

      • Yes Trisha, you are on the right track. It took me years to understand how not to be offended, but once God got it through my thick skull I felt so free. After that is released, forgiveness is so much easier; and you begin to see others as God does.

  4. It’s hard to imagine that a sunny disposition could offend anyone – but I have found that it sometimes does. Usually it’s people who have a tendency to be gloomy who let themselves be offended by cheerfulness. Most people seem to respond quite positively to cheerfulness, even (or especially) if they are having a bad day – don’t let the negative feedback get you down 🙂
    I have come across your blog twice now, and both times I have been impressed and inspired. I’m now looking forward to many happy returns here, and not by accident as now I am a cheerful follower of yours 😀

    • Thanks!
      You have a point, gloomy people tend to dislike cheerfulness more than people who are having bad days!
      I am glad you stumbled by! Thanks for following.

  5. I had to say something here. Because this post reminded me of something my probably Favorite Attending In The World said. This person is INSANELY upbeat. (They greet every patient with a giant hug, and I literally caught them dancing on an exam table at one point last year.) They are also extremely smart, competent, and an excellent, truly caring physician and teacher. I don’t even know how it came up, but I remember them telling me at some point how they were told they didn’t fit in or needed to tone it down or something (ridiculous) like that somewhere they were working (I think as a resident) – and they said (probably, to themselves), forget you, I’m not working here. And they found a place to work where they could be themselves (and, incidentally, extremely successful).

    The point is, there is nothing wrong with how they are. They are just different from most medical people. Different in a way that actually (probably) makes them better than most medical people. But *Ooooooohhhh, different,* makes some (unenlightened) people uncomfortable.

    The point is, there is nothing wrong with how you are. I, personally, am not a naturally super chipper person. But that’s why I LOVE this attending, and that’s why I follow your blog. I don’t really get it (mostly being super chipper), but I like it, I like being around it, and so do the other people who read your blog, the hundreds of patients who flock to my attending, and the many (many) who will flock to you as well. People like you lift us up.

    I know that you are very smart and very competent, that you really, truly care about your patients, and that you are and will be an outstanding physician (I have a sense about these things, trust me). And, as an added bonus, you are cheerful.

    It is a gift.

    Do not ever change.

    • Thank you so much for that!

      Your probably Favourite Attending in the World sounds awesome and I don’t even know them! I am glad they didn’t change. I am also glad you told me about them.

      It is true. It is all about being who you are. And lots of people make other people uncomfortable at some point. We all have comfort zones and they don’t always mesh. Not everyone likes upbeat. Not everybody likes grim. And some people get annoyed with in between too. “Different” makes us nervous sometimes.

      I decided to embrace my cheerfulness for what it is. And I don’t intend to change.

  6. Pingback: Lenting | At least we made it this far…

  7. You run a fine line indeed. As a cancer survivor, I both appreciated my Oncologist’s serious attitude and was irritated that he seemed too much like Eeyore. Did everything have to be dark and gloomy? My NP had a great mix of empathy, caring and friendliness. She always first wanted to know about my life, loved my quirky hats, and we chatted like I was a person and not a cancer patient for a few minutes before getting down to business. But if she had come in with a huge smile and bright chipper voice I would not have appreciated it either. I think the best approach is one that I always use as a pediatric dialysis nurse: size up their mood and their condition and behave like you would if it were a family member. Be genuine, empathetic and real. Ask them what their highest priority is for the day and make every attempt to fit that into their medical needs.

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