At other times, however, doctors used what might be considered unprofessional language to build bonds with patients. In one example, an angry patient told her doctor she was “furious” with her treatment. He responded that he could see why she was “pissed off.” His acknowledgment of her feelings helped the patient open up to the doctor about personal problems she was having, the researchers wrote.

In another case study, an unemployed blue-collar patient displayed bitterness toward his doctors for knowing “jack-shit” about his life and telling him what to do. One doctor realized he needed the patient to see him as an ally, not an authority figure. So he responded, “Gosh, I know just how you feel. I’m a doctor-in-training, and my boss always orders me around. Believe me, I’m not just some asshole who’s here to get his kicks telling you what to do.”

By speaking to the patient at his level, the researchers wrote, the doctor gained the man’s trust.