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It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

–Mark Twain

To script or not to script: In healthcare, that is the question.

According to (Script, n.d.), to script is to plan how something will happen or be done. Scripts are very useful since they are simple, easy-to-remember phrases that provide the language that goes into a specific conversation. Scripts might include ice breakers, conversation starters, and key speaking points. Scripting enables us to naturally deliver thoughtful and appropriate phrases or responses. It also helps us deliver a consistent, service-oriented response. Finally, it can help us change topics or redirect or even end a conversation.

Those opposed to scripting argue that it seems staged or robotic. That’s a fair criticism. To deliver a script with authenticity, one must have ownership of the script and truly believe it. Otherwise, it sounds rehearsed. I tend to disagree, however. After all, think about how many times you use scripting without even realizing it. For example, when you run into an old friend by surprise, odds are you automatically resort to scripted phrases like the following:

  • “Hello! How are you?”

  • “Hey, how have you been?”

  • “Oh, my goodness, what have you been up to?”

  • “Wow! It’s been so long!”

You probably also use certain “scripted” nonverbal gestures, such as smiling, raising your hands palms up with your elbows at your waist in a welcoming gesture, or placing your hands on your cheeks or over your mouth to convey that you’re speechless.

Now imagine you had similar automatic scripted responses when faced with a less desirable situation. Wouldn’t that make your life easier? I have found it invaluable to have several hard-wired scripts available, depending on the situation. The idea is not to memorize these scripts; rather, it’s to use them as a guide when responding to various emotionally charged situations. At the same time, you need not reinvent the wheel each time you use these scripts, either. Instead, you can build upon what has worked before and adapt them for new situations. This chapter introduces you to several impromptu scripts and provides several acronyms to make these scripts easier to remember.


Have you ever felt like a deer in headlights during a difficult conversation with a patient, colleague, or executive—unsure of what to say and what not to say? Many of us have. Being in a highly emotional or serious situation increases your stress levels, triggering a strong emotional response that decreases your ability to think logically, respond rationally, and find just the right word or phrase (Goleman, 1998). This is why using scripts in your everyday conversations can be very advantageous. Table 6.1 shows ...

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