How They Feel
Communication skills are more important than ever in having a good outcome with clients, coworkers, and family members. There’s a saying that you hear from time to time…”Your client doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.” But even more important is this one: “They don’t remember what you say; they remember how you make them feel.”
The words you use and the tone you have can make all the difference! Sometimes a veterinarian has an unfortunate style of communication, and regularly pisses off their coworkers. They use an unfortunate choice of words, or an aggressive tone, and in return receive a cranky or negative response. Unfortunately, these doctors simply have no self-awareness of the effect their communication has on others; as a result, they feel angry, unjustly denied, and completely in the right. It all boils down to poor communication skills.
Many of these doctors develop mostly personal good will (more on this in a later blog;) they encourage their clients to regularly call the vet’s cell phone rather than contacting the veterinary practice office. They answer calls while on vacation, form a diagnosis and treatment plan over the phone, and then call a veterinarian at the practice back home to say something like: “Very Important Client called because Crazy Lunatic has a laceration and is lame. I need you to go do a regional limb perfusion with Drug X while standing on your head over at Far Faraway Farm. You need to get there right away.” This is always said in an aggressive tone, as though they expected to be challenged. Invariably, the selected party’s hackles rise. Their immediate perception is “He must think I don’t have any of my own work to do. He must think I’m incompetent to examine, diagnose, and make a treatment plan. He must think his clients are more important than mine. He must think HE is more important than me.” Then the gnashing of the teeth, the contemplation of a two hour drive and the difficult job ahead combine to make the recipient of the message HATE their job, their life and the messenger. Sometimes heated words are exchanged. Sometimes the recipient refuses and then feels terribly guilty about it. Generally both parties end the conversation angry, dissatisfied, and misunderstood.
Imagine if instead, this vacationing veterinarian (although still addicted to his personal good will) called his colleague to say “Hey. I’m really sorry to bother you. I need your help. I’m on vacation, but Very Important Client called me, and has a very lame horse. Unfortunately it’s that horrible Crazy Lunatic. Any chance you could take care of it?” Then PAUSED. Allowed the recipient veterinarian to receive the gift of being allowed to help someone. Allowed them to give the gift of generosity! Allowed that veterinarian to ask appropriate professional questions about the history. This might naturally lead into “So if xyz is going on, what treatment are you most comfortable with? What will Very Important Client be expecting?” Simply by changing the tone and words used in the conversation, and allowing the recipient veterinarian to be treated like their opinion matters, that they are an equal, and they have a CHOICE, the feelings created are entirely different. The recipient of the extra burden may be sighing, but they won’t be gnashing their teeth or cursing or throwing things. They probably also won’t be hating their life, veterinary medicine, or their colleague.
In every interaction you have, you have the chance to give others the gift of an opportunity to be generous. Doing selfless deeds makes a person feel good. The next time you are ready to bark out an order, consider asking for help. The next time you are ready to give your recommendations to a client like rules handed down by God to be followed to the letter, engage your client in a conversation about best options. The next time your kids are fighting over the last piece of cake, ask them for their help in deciding the fairest way to divide it. Everybody will feel better.