Years of study and knowledge amount to nothing if veterinary graduates fail in the communication department.
It's tough but true. Communication connects you with your patients, their owners and colleagues to share plans, brainstorm
on problem solving and transfer information.
How we act, look, dress and smell plays an important role in our physical presentation. But failing to understand differences
between people and their communication styles can skew your message. That's why delivery is equally important.
My advice: Learn to communicate to people depending on the many attributes they present to you in practice.
Know your audience
Audience age demographics are typical communication features. Each group might require a different approach to the same message.
This can relate not only to the message itself and your means of delivering it but to your body language and personal appearance.
Speaker and management consultant Marilyn Moats Kennedy describes the age demographic groups as follows:
Pre-boomers: 57 and older
Boomers: 43 to 56
Cuspers: 34 to 42
Busters: 24 to 33
Nesters: 8 to 23.
Know whom you are talking to, paying special detail to the education and position of your audience. Communication with a client
who is a doctor, farmer, lawyer, laborer, housewife, student or child will require different methods.
Your training also has concentrated on communicating with other veterinarians, so be sure the person you are communicating
with understands what you are trying to say.
Cultural and educational background should be considered. Be aware of your neighborhood, especially if people from different
cultures make up your clientele.
Gender, generally speaking
Much has been written concerning gender differences in communication patterns. It is well-documented that male and female
brains differ. Women primarily are right-brain thinkers and men primarily use the left side of their brains. What this means,
regarding communication, is that men are able to compartmentalize or separate subjects and emotions whereas females are not
as able. Men think and reason in a linear fashion and women tend to draw on many factors, put them together and then draw
conclusions. Women have more difficulty than men keeping emotions apart from thought. This results in male directness and
female indirectness and affects how men and women communicate. Men want to solve problems and not think about emotional consequences.
Women want to give and receive emotional support so they can solve problems for themselves. In a veterinary practice, these
differences can lead to problems between men and women working together, particularly in cases of crisis where the male DVM
might make snap decisions and not ask for assistance. Understanding these differences will help you communicate with staff
members and clients.
Gender-related differences also are evident in psychological conditions, such as those exhibited by a distressed client.
How to build trust, rapport
Trust and rapport with clients must be established as well as earned. Show interest in your clients' personal lives, compliment
them on how they care for their animals and encourage them to ask questions. Let clients know that you care for them and their
animals and that your primary motive is not simply collecting your fee.
The same principles work with coworkers and others.
Every communication process is made of four basic elements: sender, message, receiver and interpretation.
The receiver determines the meaning of the message based on many factors, and the most important is trust and rapport that
they have with the sender. Before you attempt to communicate, you must first build that trust and rapport with the person
you are communicating with.
Most important: Think about what you want to say before you say it. This common advice rings true for all forms of communication.