Unrepentant Snarkiness: A-HEART Meets The Princess Bride

I work at a hospital, and we have this helpful, little acronym to deal with patients or patients’ families when they are dissatisfied with our customer service. (For those of you who object to term, every industry is a customer service industry.) At first, this particular strategy might strike someone as silly, ridiculous even, potentially a mite insulting . . . but when I applied it to familiar movie situations, I was able to see A-HEART in a whole, new light.

For example.




“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”




Step One: Apologize for the experience.

(Start with the phrase ‘I am sorry . . .’ Apologize for the experience. Don’t blame anyone. Don’t start analyzing the concern or problem-solving yet.)



“I am sorry that this experience has been so stressful for you.”



Step Two: Hear the person

(Let the person tell you what they want to say and LISTEN for their core perceptions, concerns, and feelings. Don’t jump to problem-solving before the person has finished telling your their full concerns.)


“Tell me more about your experience. What exactly has happened?




Step Three: Empathize with their feelings

(Use words and phrases that demonstrate caring and understanding. Use body language and tone of voice that mirrors your empathetic statements.)


“I hear that my callous skewering of your father led to your shitty childhood, facial scarring, alcoholism, and an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.”



Step Four: Ask how you can make it better.

(Re-apologize for the concern. Ask “What can i do to make this better?” Pause and let the person respond.)



“I’m sorry for what’s happened to you. What can I do to make this better?”



Here are some possible responses that Inigo might have.


A: “Prepare to die!”

B: “Go back in time and DON’T kill my father.”

C: “Explain to me how you could have done this. How could you have murdered my father in cold-blood?”


Step Five: Resolve the concern.

(Use their requested solution if possible. Provide additional options so they know all possible solution.)

“I apologize that I do not have the ability to go back in time and prevent myself from killing your father. I also do not believe that my death will actually help heal any of your emotional wounds. I can give you some numbers that can assist you with grief counseling and alcohol addiction. I can also explain my motivations for brutally running your father through. I was really quite hot-tempered in my youth, and I was angry that he refused to negotiate even a little on the sword’s price. Of course, I wasn’t actually expecting him to sell it to me for a quarter of what I had promised him, but his staunch refusal to barter or even listen to my revised opinions actually hurt my feelings quite a bit, and I reacted quite hastily and poorly. After your father’s death, I ended up taking some anger management classes, and I learned in the course of my therapy that the cruel torment that I suffered at the hands of my classmates due, in large part, to the abnormal number of fingers I have on my right hand, had filled me with a subconscious rage and a deep and abiding interest in pain. I have since corrected these feelings and no longer slaughter innocent sword-makers in front of their children.

Step Six: Thank the person

(Start with the phrase ‘Thank you for . . .’ Appreciate the effort it took for them to express their concern. Mention how their raising the concern allowed you to improve the care for them or for others in the future.)

“Thank you for bringing your feelings and concerns to my attention. I know it must have been a difficult and painful experience for you to talk about, and I acknowledge your bravery in this particular matter. Since you have come to me and expressed your feelings so fully, I have an even further respect for human life and will be far less likely to lose my temper and orphan any young children ever again. I greatly appreciate your courage, and I will never again forget what you have taught me today.”

End Result:

Inigo forgives Count Rugen, healing the dark hole in his heart, and they actually become fast friends, often having meaningful heart-to-hearts and living happily ever after. Right? Right?


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