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Finishing School for Radiologists: Common Anti-Social Pitfalls to Avoid, Part 1


In lieu of a “finishing school” for rads, this author says subtle course correction can prevent descent into rabbit holes of negativity.

If you’re at all connected to the health-care world, you have probably heard that radiologists can be a less than social bunch.

Granted, a lot of docs get pigeonholed based on their specialties. One could probably fill a short paperback with specialty stereotyping jokes.

But is there any truth to the characterization of rads? Well, we do lurk alone in dark rooms and many of us are now doing so remotely, where it is impossible for folks to stop by and interact with us. We stare at computer screens instead of faces and talk to voice recognition software instead of other humans. If we weren’t antisocial to begin with, working the way we do long enough has got to push us in that direction.

A more than capable social worker friend of mine took it a step further. She theorized that most folks go into health care with an aim to help people, implying a willingness, if not necessarily a desire, to interact with them. If you select a subpopulation from that crowd that turns its back on that kind of interaction, you are going to wind up with a greater prevalence of eccentricity, social awkwardness, and even misanthropism.

Social media has not helped. There are endless opportunities at your fingertips to interact without seeing (or caring about) other folks’ reactions. Indeed, a lot of users enjoy provoking negative reactions via “poking the bear” or trying to get a rise out of the faceless avatars they encounter. Trolling in a word.

Then consider the effect of intermittent societal lockdowns in the name of COVID-19 for the past couple of years, wherein such impersonal interaction was sometimes all those folks really had, and it is kind of a wonder we have any social graces left.

I would wager some have been gradually relearning how to interact in recent months. However, other folks, especially those who had a baseline of minimal personal interaction, might not find it so easy to return to “normal,” if, indeed, they ever qualified for that term in the first place.

While I don’t claim to offer a “finishing school” to make rads socially normal, there are common pitfalls that make a lot of folks (rads and otherwise) come across as being more troll-like than they otherwise might, virtually or in-person.

Don’t be Dr. Negative. Some folks seem bound and determined to be a real-life version of Debbie Downer. Pretty much everything that comes out of their mouths (or keyboards) is criticism, pessimism, doom and gloom type of stuff.

Yes, there is plenty to be negative about. Now negativity can be funny. Some comedians have made it the centerpiece of their onstage personae. But how much exposure do even die-hard fans get to such comics? Perhaps it’s an hour at a time or maybe once every few months. That is a far cry from working shoulder to shoulder with someone on a daily basis, even if it is just as a remote member of the team with regular communications by phone, instant message, and email.

Not only does the constant drumbeat of negativity get boring, it is more taxing to hear and/or read. Dwelling on negative stuff has been shown to consume more mental effort, and a Dr. Negative can be a bottomless well, a sort of “energy vampire” (think Colin Robinson if you’re a What We Do in the Shadows fan).

Unless I am in a foul mood and seeking commiseration, Dr. Negative is the last person I want when I’ve got a problem that needs solving, or an innovative idea I am hatching. He or she is predisposed to tell me that problems are unsolvable, or that the fix would be worse than the status quo. Dr. Negative will offer endless reasons why my innovation is doomed to failure, instead of encouraging its development and/or pointing out ways it could be even better.

If you spend much time in online forums, Twitter, etc., you have surely come to know a few negative personalities out there. Some of them are quite prolific, chiming in on just about every story they encounter. Every comment they make is a swipe at someone or a downvote for the conversation thread itself. Others frequenting the given site quickly identify the comment author as a troll and respond accordingly. They either ignore/mute/block him or her, troll back at the negative commenter, or try to get him or her removed.

Having seen enough negative types over the years, I have made it a priority to avoid being one. I would rather be the guy you want on your team, the one you seek out rather than avoid. On the rare occasion I do have something negative to say, I want it to be heard and seriously considered rather than dismissed as yet another in an endless stream of gloomy utterances everyone has come to expect from me.

Interestingly, the more aware I have become of negative folks out there, the easier it becomes to recognize when I’m about to act like one myself. It gives me a chance to course correct. The simplest internal feedback could be considering the following unspoken questions:

• Am I about to say (or do) something negative?

• Is there a more positive way I can accomplish the same thing?

• If not, am I really doing any good by proceeding with the negativity?

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