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How the Exchange Principle can help your pharmacy practice

The relationship principle that I have learned to employ is called the Exchange Principle. The Exchange Principle says before you put someone in his place, you should put yourself in his place.

For the last five months or so, I have been teaching a group of about two dozen people several people principles. The reason behind the teaching is that a huge part of our lives is spent engaging other people, so we might as well learn how to be more effective at it. 

It has been a good reminder for me as I prepare these lessons of the agency we have to impact our relationships. If I could write a book on good relationship principles, it would likely be one many people would like. That’s because it would be short! On the other hand, if I were to write a book on how I have struggled and failed to build relationships, it would be very long. In fact, there would likely be multiple volumes!

Let me share one of my more disastrous patient encounters. Many years ago, I was working with a technician who was trying (unsuccessfully) to communicate with a patient in the drive-thru about an issue with her prescription. From across the pharmacy, I could tell things were not going well, but it was easier to not get involved. 

Or so I told myself.

A few minutes later, the phone rang and it is the same patient from the drive-thru.  -She wanted to express her dissatisfaction with the attitude of my technician. Before I go further, let me remind you that I am a reasonably well-educated man. I spent a lot of time in the library studying my pharmacology and pharmacokinetics. So, what I said next may be somewhat of a surprise. My response was, “You thought that was bad? You should try working with her!”

Yes, I said that. I am not proud of that. But I can remember that response like it was yesterday. It was me acknowledging the patient had a poor experience with the technician and I was more miserable than she was because I was working with this technician.

While I hope this true story brings at least a smile to your face, I told you that story because there is a relationship principle that I have learned, and now use, that serves me so much better.

Where it really took hold of me was several years ago, as my team and I were working to schedule on-site flu clinics for a number of employers. As part of our strategy, we worked with some large account managers with access to hundreds of employers and tens of thousands of patients needing vaccination.

You can likely understand my disappointment and frustration when these account managers told us that they were going to use a different group to provide these clinics.  You can also understand, especially in light of the drive-thru story, my arrogance and delight when these same managers came back several weeks later telling us the group they previously decided to work with had gone out of business overnight and now they were stuck to provide flu clinics for their employer group asap. And by asap, I mean within 24-48 hours.

The relationship principle that I have learned to employ is called the Exchange Principle. The Exchange Principle says before you put someone in his place, you should put yourself in his place.  

We have all been there, right? You just want to put someone in his place. During this time, John, who served on my clinical team, called me one evening telling me about how these account managers were driving him crazy. He told me stories about how these managers would confirm the clinic and then just a few hours later call back to confirm the clinic one more time.

I shared the Exchange Principle with John at this time. I asked him to consider what it must be like to be an account manager, have everything seemingly set up, and then have everything pulled out from under you at the last minute. As we talked through what life must be like on the other end of those phone calls, a new perspective was gained. What started with frustration was replaced with compassion.

I share this story with you today because we can all benefit from using the Exchange Principle. If I had used it with my patient from the drive-thru, I can only imagine the progress I would have made with that relationship.  

The nice thing about the Exchange Principle is you can use it with anyone! Not just patients, but also your staff, family, neighbours – the list goes on and on. 

I encourage you to set a reminder on your phone for 1:36 p.m. each day. When that reminder goes off, take just a moment to consider the perspective of those people around you. You may just open your eyes to some new insights.

Until next time –

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn



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