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It's time to turn your veterinary practice into a 'Safe Space' for you & your team

Posted in Our Community @ Oct 7th 2020 - By Dr Diederik Gelderman, Turbo Charge Your Practice
Its Time To Turn Your Veterinary Practice Into A Safe Space For Your Your Team V2

I want to talk about masks today.

No, not the kind we’re all wearing at the supermarket. The other kind. The invisible masks of “I’m doing totally fine!” and “I’m OK!” that so many of us are putting on these days, as we try to maintain some semblance of normality.

When the primary way we connect with each other is through social media and on Zoom calls, we tend to see a lot of the polished and positive side – and a lot less of the reality.

What’s more, most of people you interact with in this community are probably a lot like you. They’re the ones others turn to when they need reassurance. The strong ones who keep going when loved ones need support; the glue that binds together teams, families, organisations.

Where do you go when you need to take off your mask?

So where do we go when we need to take off our masks, and admit what’s going on beneath?

Who helps you, when you’re the one who always helps?

Will the world fall apart if we dare to whisper, once in a while, the words “I’m not OK?”

Here’s my take. 

Your vulnerability is your strength

Let’s talk about vulnerability – and specifically, the shame that seems to be pervading the world at the moment, especially amongst those capable and committed in this community. If you’ve recently found yourself secretly thinking “Everybody seems to be doing better than me!”, then read on.

I’m going to explain why that’s not true, what stops us from admitting it, and how sharing what’s really going on for you can be a source of radical power and support. Strange as it might seem, your vulnerability is your strength when you find the right space to share it.

But first, let’s start with why this particular moment is wobbly for so many of us - which has a lot to do with the unique lens through which we’re viewing the rest of the world.

How are you getting your impressions of others at the moment?

Take a moment to think about how you’re getting your impression of how others are doing. 

With the restrictions currently in place, many of us are filtering our interactions through the lens of social media or zoom meetings. We’re not having as many of those glancing interactions with people at family events or the casual connections at the playground or the pub. We're not having those times where you see each other around the water cooler at the practice or in the lunch room, and just feel that someone’s energy is off.

The epidemic of 'mask wearing' is growing

So we don’t recognise the fact that a lot of us are suffering.

Something which is becoming more common over the last 5-6 months is the epidemic of mask wearing - and I’m not talking about the Coronavirus, surgical mask you pop on to go to the shops. I’m talking about the “everything’s okay” mask.

You know the difference, right?

That, “everything’s fine!” or “I’ve got this handled!” mask. That particular kind of mask wearing seems to have gone up a lot in recent times.

What I’m starting to hear from my coaching clients and on my Zoom calls and just talking with Veterinarians in general is;

“You know what? Maybe I really need to rest my load down a little bit here and actually say how I really am – but I don’t know who to say it to or how to say it.”

“I’m actually really not managing very well.”

“I’m not doing okay.”

“I’m struggling in my relationship.”

“I’m feeling like I’m failing as a parent / boss / employee / friend.”

I meet people who struggling to stop weeping. Dealing with real, big emotions. Or experiencing that sense of sleepwalking numbness.

What I'm seeing is just how much we are collectively challenged and hurting at this time.

Even those of us who are very well ‘resourced’ emotionally are feeling the strain of this time. We are feeling the pressure, but…

We’re not talking about it in any spaces or places. 

This year many of us have experienced stress, difficult decisions and emotional strain unlike anything else we’ve gone through. Yet all that can change when the environment we create is safe to say that out loud. And I’ve been reflecting on just how rare and precious that safe space is ever since.

It's become very apparent to me just how vulnerable so many of us are feeling at the moment and just how few safe places we have to say what we're really thinking and feeling.…we’re lacking spaces where we can offload

Your vulnerability is your strength – because hiding it saps your energy.

We’re under huge pressure in our home environments and at work, and on top of that we’re often being the strong ones for our family members, our wider family, and in our work spaces for our teams and colleagues. And we are often the last ones to reach out and say, “I’m not doing okay”. Because we feel like if we say that out loud, the whole world will fall apart.

But today I want to challenge that assumption. And here’s why.

Our feelings are collective

Part of the power of being open with our vulnerability is the recognition that it is a universal experience. Grief is universal. Fear is universal.

Sometimes we can feel like there’s something wrong with us as individuals – that we are somehow broken or particularly challenged - because our neighbour isn’t feeling this way, the other school dads and mums next to us seem to be coping just fine. 

The other men and women who are out dating or leading Veterinary teams are not experiencing fear or sadness – everybody around us seem to have it together.

But this is absolutely not the case.

Your vulnerability is not a fault or a problem - it’s a normal, healthy, compassionate human response.

In a community, your vulnerability is your strength. When we come together as a community and start talking about our experiences, one of the first and most healing moments is the realisation that emotions are universal experiences. “I’m not the only one!”

Why does this surprise us? Well, I’ll tell you why it surprises us… because we don’t bloody well talk about it!

We don’t talk about our innermost feelings. We don’t talk about the fact that we sent an email out to a client, reached out to a colleague, sms’d a friend and they didn’t write, ring or sms us back and we feel rejected and alone.

We don’t talk about the fact that we went out on three dates with a girl or a guy, and then we didn’t hear from them afterwards. They disappeared and we feel rejected and alone.

We might talk about what happened, but how often do we actually talk about how we are feeling at a deeper level? And how many of us even take the time to notice how we’re feeling on a deeper level?

What’s missing in our culture and in our society, are safe spaces to be heard, to be the full entirety of who we are. All of our huge, awesome and rocking magnificence and all of our vulnerable, weepy, uncertain, insecure selves.

We just don’t have those spaces. And it’s time to start creating them.

Your practice can become a safe spaces for people to share

And that for me is one of the things that I’m intensely grateful for. To see how all of us could feel able to show up and to share. For me, this is a possibility that is incredibly moving and empowering.

If you’re someone who doesn’t even consider your own emotions, and then you start hearing from people who are more open….then you might just start to look at / within yourself for the very first time and start to notice how you are feeling.

Or, if you’re already very aware of how you’re feeling but not actually telling anybody about it, you might be able to develop the inner strength to say “This is what’s going on for me right now”.

When it’s said out loud, it becomes a shared experience.

And then what usually happens in a safe community is that at least one or ten or twenty or dozens of others say, “Oh, me too. You know, something similar happened to me. Yeah. Something similar happened to my sister / brother / friend / uncle.”

That recognition and acknowledgement are both such a powerful things. And the relief that can follow sharing openly, and not being judged, is also so powerful.

Sometimes it’s just the ability to lay down the burden in a safe space, which is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Isn’t it time that you turned your practice into a ‘Safe Space’!!

About Diederik

On graduation I purchased a Veterinary clinic in Maitland, NSW and sold it in July 2009. At the time of purchase, it was a run down one person clinic with about a 90% mixed and 10% small animal component. The business grew well, so that at one stage there were 4 branches and 8 Veterinarians.  At the time of sale there were 5 Veterinarians,16 support staff functioning out of a purpose built ‘A’ class Hospital with one branch. In 2004 the practice won the Pfizer/AVA Practice of Excellence Award as well as coming 3rd in the Fujitsu Customer Service Awards. 

At this stage (and even slightly before), I started co-presenting at trainings and workshops and in 2007 I started developing and hosting my own workshops. In July 2009 I sold my practice to concentrate on my coaching, training, speaking and workshop business – and to be able to move to Exeter (NSW) to be with my partner. I missed clinical practice, so in May 2018 I purchased a veterinary practice with the aim of building it up by providing a highly customer service friendly veterinary practice alternative to the local community. In that time we have grown the practice gross fee turnover by 53.1% and trebled its net take home profit. 

If you would like to build a successful Veterinary Business, join The Veterinary Business Academy - Everything you need to grow your veterinary practice. 

Click HERE to find out more...

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