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GPs in the UK and I suspect all over the world have the term ‘Heartsink Patient’; a patient who just makes them go ‘Oh no, not again….!’ and they just know that the ten or so minutes that they are allocated for an average consultation is just going to go out of the window. The patient generally presents symptoms which are vague and ever-changing; full of complaints yet rejecting advise and when advised to stop doing the thing which hurts, they continue to do it.

And in IT; we have exactly the same problem, we have ‘Heartsink Projects’, ‘Heartsink Project Managers’ and ‘Heartsink Users’. They exasperate us and drive our tempers close to boiling point; I suspect this causes more cases of IT burn-out than almost anything else.

So I wonder if looking at some of the advice given to GPs on how to deal with their Heartsink Patients may be of use to us in the IT World.

Accept Them

Every company has them; don’t overly fret about it and realise you’ll never get rid of them. But also remember it probably isn’t anything to do with your abilities as an IT Practioner

Listen Carefully

There are generally requirements in there somewhere, listen and pick them out. Take notes and reinforce with reflective listening. Always summarise the meeting with a note and agreed actions on both sides.

Be Realistic About Outcomes

Calmly manage expectations; if a project manager presents a date which is completely unrealistic, step through the required actions with timescales; let them see where the critical path is and try to work through to a sensible date. Of course, they are going to want to do it quicker and cut corners; understand that this timescale has probably been dropped on them but you can sometimes arm them with the information they need to get the project rescheduled.

Keep Cool

Keep cool and smile understandingly; try not resort to the geek defence/offence of extreme sarcasm.

If you can manage to do that, you are probably a better person than me.

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