I don’t get yelled at by patients very often but when I do there is one question I want to ask the offended and angry person. “What are you hoping to accomplish by yelling at me?”
I have been yelled at more than once for not prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection. Each time I wondered if the patient thought my medical opinion was so weakly held that it would change once a certain decibel level had been reached, if antibiotics were indicated not based on the severity of the infection but on the anger of the patient.
I have had patients yell and scream over the cost of an office visit. Some have threatened to seek care elsewhere if I did not waive my fees, apparently oblivious to the fact that no doctor wants patients who don’t pay their bills in their practice. Their behavior guaranteed an outcome opposite of the one they were seeking. Instead of begging them to stay I was glad to see them go.
These encounters came to mind this week as I watched the anti-Trump demonstrations. While Donald Trump has given Americans myriad reasons to be upset and angry I find myself wondering, “What are they trying to accomplish?”
There is no chance of a do-over. Elections do not work that way. No amount of yelling is going to change Trump’s mind. No clever sign or intensely chanted slogan is going to change the outcome. Instead of persuading others the most likely result of these protests is to galvanize those who against them. Those who voted for Trump rightly feel that their vote is being devalued and attacked. The natural result will be greater support for Trump among his voters and those who almost voted for him, making his policies more likely to succeed. This is not what the protesters want but it is what they will get.
If these protesters truly want to change people’s minds they are going to need to do it the old fashioned way. They will have to leave the bubble in which they live and engage in dialogue with those who disagree with them. They will have to listen, understand, and provide reasonable, rational and respectful explanations for their point of view. This will take time, effort, and patience. If they are as passionate as they claim they will make the effort. If they don’t, their words aren’t worth the poster board they are printed on.
If they want to impact elections they will have to do this the old fashioned way as well. They will need to register and vote, and support candidates with whom they agree. They will need to volunteer their time and donate their money. If they don't they will continue to feel as if they are outside of the process, because they will be outside of the process.