We’re used to taking the temperature of our patient, and even when we need a little help steadying the front end of the animal, we know our way around the back end pretty well. But what about our client’s “temperature?"
Well, it’s the emotional “temperature.” Clients who are laid back, easy to get along with, friendly, and pays their bill could be understood as having a “low” temperature, and are not much cause for concern for either party. But clients with “high” temperatures are those ones we have to watch. They can be heated up for any number of reasons, which displays itself as any number of emotions such as anger, disappointment, grief, concern, highly attached … well you probably get the point, the ones we lump into the “high-maintenance” category. They may not be our favorite type of client to interact with, but because they make up a large number of our cases each day, knowing how to interact with these clients will certainly help us get through the day.
The first step is simply to “take” their temperatures. It’s not difficult; typically within minutes, you can tell how hot they are by their words, actions, persona, demeanor, non-verbal communication … it is just an innate ability we have in reading others. It’s what we DO with that information that is most important. For sure there is one way to NOT get along with these folks, and that is to ignore their raised temperature. If we seem detached, unconcerned or dismissive, our client’s temperature will just go higher.
Instead, we need to administer fever-reducing “medicine” upon taking their temperature and seeing that it is elevated. The best medicine is to mirror back their concern. When you find out why they are concerned, you should be concerned right along with them. They may be angry they had to wait for their appointment; then you too should show that you noticed their appointment ran late, and apologize to help cool them off. If they are upset about the cost of veterinary care, you can reflect that back to them as well simply by acknowledging how they feel with an “I understand” that is well-placed and sincere. After all, we ARE sorry that it’s hard to afford good veterinary care, because it is often a financial challenge for us and our pets as well!
Most of all, when they are concerned for the well-being of their pets, we must likewise be concerned. For example, a client comes in with an “emergency,” and they are nervous and scared and worried. Even if to our eyes the pet looks like it is just fine, we must mirror that client’s concern, and let them know that we are worried too, let’s get to the bottom of this and help this pet! At the very least, start there. Start by showing your concern, and then perhaps as the patient is triaged, and the vital signs look good, it is time to help the client start dialing down their emotions. But the most important part is to meet them where THEY are, and that means discovering and reflecting their temperature.
Just like some of our patients don’t enjoy getting that temperature taken, some of our clients won’t either … there are some people that are just a challenge, no matter how hard we try. That’s okay as long as you know you are doing your best, and starting from where they are. Take that temperature, and then see if efforts need to be made to cool them down. This will make everyone feel better!