Learning How to Handle “The Overs”


Learning how to handle “The Overs” is a skill. What do I mean by “The Overs”? An “Over” is a guest who is over-friendly, over-researched, or overbearing.

The Over-Friendly

Although it doesn’t sound bad when you first mention it, many people may feel uncomfortable with over-friendly guests in the workplace. I find it especially true for young attractive women who feel that patients or customers are crossing the line from friendly banters to pickup lines.

However, it certainly is not limited to male offenders. Female guests can be just as guilty of crossing the line. What can you do to get out of these situations? I have a three-step approach.

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Remove yourself from the engagement. Walk away to another part of the facility. Busy yourself with other work causing a physical distance between you and the over-friendly. Be sure to stay professional and formal in your word choices when it is appropriate to reengage.

Redirect. When it first starts to sound over the line, redirect with statements like, “Bill, I can’t let you keep talking to me like that. I have to ask that we keep this conversation professional.” Then immediately follow that up with an instruction related to the purpose of the encounter.

Refer to another team member. Discuss with your teammates the guest who makes you feel uncomfortable. If possible, refer the guest to another member of the team who can attend to his or her needs in your place.

Over-friendly equals insecurity. Knowing this helps me react appropriately toward this person.

The Over-Researched

For example, a patient presents in the exam room loaded with knowledge from the internet. She has a ream of paper that explains the self-diagnoses, the treatment plan, and a brand-new drug that will best work for her. She behaves as if all you have to do is confirm and prescribe.

We all know that many times this data is going to be off-base or at the very least not the standard of care. The best thing here is for the staff to protect the doctor’s time by acknowledging the work that went into the research, showing appreciation for the participation in their care, and giving assurance that it will be shown to the doctor.

By doing that, we are able to acknowledge the work that they put into their research. Being proactive and gathering information gives the patient power at a time when they will need it. Acknowledging what they’ve done is the best thing you can do.

The Overbearing Guest

In this category, we find almost every annoying characteristic that’s difficult to handle. Over the years, I have dealt with people who have sworn at me, said cruel things, and even threatened the staff. In my personal life, I’ve dealt with overbearing people by avoiding them or getting away from them as fast as I can. In business, that isn’t a choice. We have to know how to deal with them.

One thing that has really helped me is to see beyond the behavior that annoys and try to remain unaffected by their words. Instead, I let it fall off my back and maybe even look for a chance to use humor. My favorite story about this was the time my patient was an older gentleman who seemed to have lost his verbal filter over the years. He said anything that came to mind. I was finishing up his testing when out of the blue, he leaned out from behind the equipment and smirked, “You sure are fat.”

Having been a plus-sized gal most of my life, this was not news to me, but this overbearing older gentleman’s rude remark caught me off guard. I knew I couldn’t be rude back to him. Instead I went with humor. I stepped back, looked down at myself, and said, “What? I’m fat? You’ve got to be kidding me!” He burst out laughing, and I just went on with my work. My feelings were hurt, but I didn’t show it.

One of my colleagues overheard what he said. She informed the doctor we were working with about what had happened. I found out later that when the doctor got into the room, he shook hands with the man and said, “I’m happy to take care of you today, sir, but I’m going to ask you to treat my team with the respect they deserve. Laurie works very hard for me, and I will not agree to take care of you as a new patient if you won’t agree to be kind to the people I care about.”

How to Handle “The Overs”

The man profusely apologized and asked to speak to me before leaving. He said he was very sorry and didn’t know why he even said such a rude statement. Humor worked for me that day, but as you can tell, I’ll never forget it. More than two decades later when I needed to reflect on a person who was overbearing towards me, he is the man who first comes to mind. Overbearing behavior comes from the fear of being incompetent. This gentleman was likely feeling vulnerable in the medical situation he was in, and he chose an overbearing attitude as a way to cope.

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What all of these Overs have in common is the need for control. They demonstrate that need in a various ways. Knowing how to watch for these behaviors, react appropriately, and remain professional is key.

An entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author, Laurie Guest, CSP is a “go-to-resource” for customer service excellence. For more than two decades, she has shared her practical point of view on customer service and staff development with audiences and companies across the country, blending real-life examples and proven action steps for improvement. Her latest book, The 10¢ Decision: How Small Change Pays of Big, presents her most sought-after and impactful strategies to find and retain the best staff and highest-quality customers while delivering exceptional guest experiences.

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