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The aspect of the study discussed is part of the analysis of audio-recorded, naturally occurring conversations between symptom control team (SCT) nurses, terminally ill cancer patients and their relatives in their own homes over a 3-month period Using an ethnographic, extended case-study approach, four ‘role formats' were identified as consistently used by the SCT nurses to carry out their work through conversation, one of them being ‘friendly and informal’ The SCT nurses explicitly made it known to patients and their relatives that they intended to be ‘friendly and informal’ How such a claim was translated into practice, both non-conversationally and through conversation, is the focus of this paper Being ‘friends' and being ‘friendly and informal’ with patients and clients is frequently advocated in medical and nursing literature, but how this is achieved in practice and the responses of patients seems unstudied Therefore, the analysis discussed in this paper opens up for critical reflection an unquestioned, taken-for-granted aspect of practice where it is demonstrated how ‘friendliness and informality’ are conveyed through chatting and how it differs from ‘formal’ conversations