Being an active good listener in the veterinary office is of the utmost importance. When a client is explaining their pet’s problems to the receptionist, they want to know that receptionist is listening effectively. Not everyone is a good listener, listening is really hard work and it takes concentration. There are a few things one can do to become a good listener and there are signs that someone is not listening.
If a friend is telling a story, they expect to be listened to. There are a few things we as people do to let them know we are not listening. Distracting ourselves is one of them. Sending a text message, watching a dog in the distance or thinking about what needs done at home are all ways of distracting ourselves. Interrupting someone as they speak is also a good way to let them know you are not listening. Topping their story with one of your own can let someone know they are not being listened to. Just because you’ve done the same things as them doesn’t mean they want to know about it. Just listen to their story and be genuinely interested in what they are saying.
There are several ways to break those habits and become a good listener. Squarely facing the speaker, uncrossing your arms, leaning towards the speaker and making eye contact are excellent ways to start. Repeating things back to the speaker is another way, however this needs to be used when appropriate. Also realize when you’re not listening and fix it. Be mindful of what the person is saying to you, leave your phone in your pocket and be honest with them. Let them know you weren’t listening and ask them to repeat the last part.
Body language can say a lot about a person and how they are feeling. Body language is very relevant to management and leadership and can be a good tool to understanding someone. There are some cultural differences in body language however. Something that is acceptable in one country could be very offensive in another country.
For example, in Arabic countries, the thumbs up signal is considered rude. People from parts of India shake their head from side to side to show agreement instead of nodding like Americans do. In some Australian Aboriginal cultures, looking an elder or person of higher rank than you in the eye is considered disrespectful. It’s important to research cultural differences in body language prior to visiting or interacting with someone of a different culture.
Paraphrasing is something we do in communication to put something into our own words. Paraphrasing will also help to avoid plagiarism. Paraphrasing sometimes helps to get your point across in terms that are easier to understand for your clients. A lot of clients do not understand the medical terminology included within veterinary medicine and they will not understand you if you quote the medical record word for word. A veterinary technician can paraphrase a diagnosis or home care instructions to assist the client in understanding what to do to care for their animal at home.
Discrimination in the work place is more common than most would think. Discrimination happens when someone is treated differently because of their race, skin color, national origin, disability, religion, age or sexual preference. Discrimination can also happen in a veterinary practice against clients and their pets. One of the more common prejudices is that Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Dobermans are inherently vicious.
When a client brings one of these animals into the clinic, they do not expect to be treated any differently than someone with another breed of dog. Sexual harassment can also happen in the veterinary clinic between staff members. Many offices offer seminars on sexual harassment for their staff so they understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not. There are also hand outs given to employees sometimes describing such occurrences and how to avoid them.
Brochures and hand outs are also a big part of veterinary office communication with clients. These can either be made by the staff or printed off of the computer from a reliable website. Some things brochures can cover are flea treatments, parasite information, preventative health care, etc. The brochures and handouts need to have information in them pertaining to whatever the client is asking about.
Listening to the client’s needs can help with selecting the correct brochure or handout needed to assist that client. Some clients will request a copy of their pet’s records as well. Each veterinarian is expected to follow a code of ethical conduct known as the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics. In this code, it states that the medical records are the property of the practice and is privileged and confidential. They can only be released when required by law or at the consent of the owner of the patient. The records cannot be released to anyone except the owner unless prior consent is given, this must be communicated to the client very well.
Good communication is essential in a well run facility. There are many times when empathy and common sense will dictate what needs to be said. For example, if a client brings in their elderly pet for euthanasia you will want to be empathetic toward them and careful of their emotions. If a client brings in a new puppy, you can be excited for them and happy. Be sure to read the client’s attitude and pay attention to their body language to understand how to react and what to say to them. Practice good listening skills on and off the job and make sure you are paying attention to every client that walks through the door. Communicating well can be the difference between a great clinic and just a mediocre clinic.