Wars are won and lost on the powers of diplomacy. Some people are born with the gift, while others need to work at it. Some people never learn. We all have one of those acquaintances, the one who is proud of “telling it like it is”- the one who says your butt looks big in those pants, she can tell you gained a few pounds, your new haircut makes you look like a Chia pet, and that your kids are being hooligans.
Those people are usually pretty lonely, as a general rule.
Such champions of the unvarnished truth find themselves the victim of misunderstandings and contempt, which they can never comprehend. How sorrowful their mistreatment, the crushing weight of the cross they bear because of their need to always tell the truth no matter the cost. So gallant.
What we call ‘being diplomatic’, they call ‘lying’. I don’t see it the same way. One can dance around the obvious insulting truth sometimes in order to help people feel better about themselves, right? There are times to be straightforward, particularly when someone is in harm’s way, or when someone asks you to be honest. But there are other times when it simply is not necessary. And if someone is paying you to take care of their beloved pet, your ability and willingness to engage the art of diplomacy can make or break your practice.
Pets can be fractious. They are in a stressful environment full of strange noises and smells, sometimes sick, often being poked and prodded and violated in the name of an accurate temperature. Who can blame them for struggling a little? But we don’t say ‘fractious’ to an owner, do we? I prefer ‘stressed’. ‘Muzzles’ become ‘party hats’, always accompanied by the sympathetic aside that I understand poor Fido is not an evil dog, he’s just ‘stressed’. Most of the time this is even true.
It’s not lying. It’s being polite. No one wants their pet to be insulted, and I don’t blame them.
We have a tell it like it is tech here, though I think her approach is more based on youthful inexperience with the world than a die hard dedication to being a crusader for veritas. She is truly a nice person, and she is normally fantastic with clients. Unfortunately, in a moment of sweat inducing wrestling with a nervous terrier, she made the mistake of making an offhand remark to the client about Fluffy being a bit of a pain on that particular occasion. She said it in the lighthearted way she always does, and thought nothing of it.
Unfortunately, she chose the wrong client to say that to. Mrs. Fluffy was extremely affronted. Extremely. Sadly, after a series of tragic losses in her life, Fluffy was her sole remaining companion, an anchor in a storm of uncertainty. And now we took poor Fluffy into the back, tortured him into a state of hysteria, and had the nerve to then refer to him as a pain. Mrs. Fluffy asked for the manager. And the manager’s manager. And the manager’s manager’s manager, as high as she could go to make sure we all knew of the egregious insult lobbed on her by our unprofessional Comic the Insult Tech.
And it was a poor choice of words, to be sure. I can understand why she was upset. We talked to this tech, who was surprised at the reaction since, well, Fluffy really was a wee bit of a pain. But, she has learned the lesson so many people before her have not, and rather than running from the client the next time she came in, she went right into the room and gave a sincere apology.
And guess what? Mrs. Fluffy now refuses to see any technician BUT her. Another win for diplomacy.
WOW– That is so great to hear! Really heartwarming, especially since I know a lot of people like Mrs. Fluffy, and the Tech as well.
What a wonderful post — you have a great writing voice! This is my first visit to your blog. Love it!
As president of a non-profit rescue, my volunteers and I deal with vets, vet techs, and vet receptionists almost daily. It is amazing how often my volunteers call me with complaints about this very issue. The people mean well, and give great vet care, but it is their wording that people remember.
I’d love to see a follow-up post on what training you give your staff on how to be diplomatic in different “stressful” situations.
Dr. V says
Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you will stick around 🙂
It’s true, clinics are made and broken by one’s ability to relate to people. It’s as or more important than clinical skills.
I’ll have to think on your suggestion- hoo boy do we have stressful situations from time to time! Great idea!
Annette Frey says
Great article and good for this tech for dealing with it later, rather than running away!
Dr. V says
I was very proud of her. She did a great job.
An unusual (& great) ending to a common situation. Kudos to all of the staff and to the client. Great lesson in customer service.
Dr. V says
It could have gone either way. Thank goodness Mrs. Fluffy is the forgiving type!
Rita Ardt says
I totally understand! My cat Abby has been banned from the vet’s for 3 years because of her “attitude” and I don’t blame them! She’s welcome for any true emergency but not for annual check-ups, as she’s had her 3 yr rabies shot and “appears” healthy. They didn’t get too close a look! She is a rescue and a total Jeckyll & Hyde character. She’s fine with me and a beautiful looking cat but I warn everyone that despite her beauty, she has a mean streak. At least I recognise it!
Keep up your great work.
Dr. V says
Oh no! Poor kitty! We have a few of those in our clinic. It’s amazing how much fear a 9 pound cat can strike into a group of full sized adult humans. 😀
I wish I could email this post to my mother-in-law. She’s “the one who is proud of ‘telling it like it is'” at my expense. Jeesh, animals are sooo much easier!
Wow – good for the tech for facing Mrs Fluffy head on!! A very good learning situation for all of us! It’s very easy to say something in an off-hand manner that can be taken so wrong by someone else!
Dr. V says
So true! The brain-mouth filter has to be on 24/7. 😀
Jessica. Are you thinking of me when you write about “those people?” Admit it, you are, you even named me. 😉
Dr. V says
lol! Actually I was thinking of a certain family member. :/ You are honest, yes, but I think you also would be kind to spare someone’s feelings…or not???