The Benefit Of The Doubt



You wouldn’t know it by looking at us, but we are a very suspicious bunch in veterinary medicine. Well, we must be, because it is rare that we give each other the “benefit of the doubt” as it were. It seems so much easier for some of us at least to suspect the worse of each other, rather than lead with the idea that there is an honest, friendly reason for what others do.

For example, a colleague of mine was recently chastised for supposedly not doing something, when in fact she HAD used modern technology to do the right thing. Unfortunately, sometimes even the most modern of technology fails, and the fax or email does not reach its intended audience. After she was chastised, and relayed that indeed she HAD sent the information to the caller via fax, they finally came to a meeting of the minds. But how much easier, and indeed friendlier, would it have been for the caller to lead with “I didn’t receive any information from you, did you try to contact me?” rather than assuming the worst!

This happens every day to us in practice. Our coworker doesn’t help us while we’re struggling with a patient, and we assume they intended to ignore our obvious need. A client begins to voice a concern, and we’re already forming our comeback defense. Our boss forgets to say goodbye at the end of the day, and we assume he or she wasn’t thankful for the hard work we put into our shift. Why do we do this to ourselves? I’m not saying everyone should continually view the world through rose-colored glasses, but it seems it would be better for our attitude, and the mood of those around us, if we could simply lead with believing in the best intentions of the people we interact with on a daily basis.

It’s no doubt that we’ve all had to put up with our fair share of angry clients, disgruntled employees, and yes, unappreciative bosses. But we carry the experience with one negative person into the way we view all people from that point forward, and that doesn’t do us any good at all. So next time you’re considering that something didn’t go the way you expected, start with a QUESTION …”did you hear my request for help?," “re you pleased with my performance today?," “is there a reason you seem upset?”

My daughter is in fourth grade, and she is taught to address others with “I” statements. This is a lesson that even though we may have learned it in grade school, most of us have forgotten. It goes like this: “I feel irritated when you don’t notice that I need help when I’m struggling with a patient” … rather than the less desirable but more common “why didn’t you come help me? You make my angry!" Offer up how YOU feel, not the conclusion that you have come to regarding their behavior. This will help you reach a consensus much sooner.

Yes, there may be those people out there “to get you," but I imagine it’s all in your head. After all, most people are too busy worrying about what they may be falling victim to from moment to moment to plan ways to irritate you! 

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