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Top Tips for getting through communication barriers with your veterinary clients

Posted in Client Service @ Jul 18th 2019 - By Dr Ilana Mendels, VetPrac
Top Tips For Getting Through Communication Barriers With Your Veterinary Clients Red

We're all acutely aware of the hot topics in our industry at the moment: Communication, Mindfulness, and Wellbeing. 

How many of us have engaged in practical training in these areas beyond reading magazine articles and hearing reference to them at conferences? 

Great communication is critical to professional success regardless of our roles in the industry. It's a skill that is frequently overlooked because, "Our focus is fixing animals right?"


With the prevalence of online communication, client reviews, and social media posts about clients' experiences - the importance of great communication skills have never been more critical in the veterinary industry.

Effective communication with fellow workers, suppliers, contractors, and others we interact with in the day-to-day operations of the practice, improves so many facets of business operations such as productivity, performance, compliance, staff welfare, and enthusiasm... the list goes on and on.

Communication brilliance is also necessary with our partners, children, parents, friends and everyone else in our private circle and this too can impact our professonal success. We can all think of various instances this reigns true. 

Communication encompasses every waking moment of our lives.

We invest a lot of time, effort and money into our medical training but we also need to invest in communication skills because that's what brings life and substance to our medical techniques and expertise.

Top tips for getting through to people when it really counts

1. Be Authentic

We are all motivated by different things which align with our individual values. People can smell bullshit and when you try to convince a client of something you don’t believe yourself they feel it. More than that, you will be betraying your own value system and that will eat you up.

2. Understand the perspective of your counterpart

Communication is a two-way street, sometimes 3-way! It helps before you try to put your point across to understand where the other people involved are coming from. Taking the time to find out before engaging on a path to getting through to people, can make the experience more collaborative and positive for everyone.

3. Start with the end in mind

Ultimately we communicate to be heard and achieve a goal. If your mind heads into the conversation in battle mode (defense or attack) you are less likely to have a positive outcome.

4. Assume the best

If a person shows up for a conversation it’s because they want a positive outcome too. Their consideration of a positive outcome might be different from yours, which is why gaining perspective first can really help lay the path. However, assume more broadly that the person you engage with wants what is best for your patient or business or even for you or them. It builds rapport, trust and increases the chances of successful outcomes

5. Listen

Active listening requires work. We have to avoid distractions in our own heads and around us which prevent us from hearing our conversation in its entirety. How can we expect to reach a successful outcome if we have not been present for the whole journey?

6. Help the other person to feel felt

It is not enough to listen, the key to getting through to people is to show and truly understand their feelings. Mirroring body language can help with this, but so can statements acknowledging their position. If you can help a person to feel felt then you can tap into their authenticity and your own, and achieve great outcomes.

7. Manage your own feelings with kindness and compassion

When someone says or does something we don’t like, the natural response is to take offense because it threatens our value system. When we are defending our patients and our values we can get quite upset. The fastest way out of this frustration is not to blame the other person for our frustration. Instead to say to ourselves – “What I feel matters, this person doesn’t understand me and that’s not their fault. To make this interaction work requires me to explain myself better so I can feel felt and get on the same page as the other person/s.”

8. Express your views and knowledge with neutrality

The true challenge –  “How can I gently and kindly convey what is needed without compromising my value system?”. We do not have to let ourselves and our values be pushed around because someone else is pushy. True negotiation and conversation skills come into play when we can hold the other persons’ opinion respectfully and also convey ours receiving the same respect.

9. Be gracious

No matter the outcome of the communication experience honor the effort of all parties to enter into the dialogue which has taken time and energy. If you are not successful in getting through in the time available, you can always try again in the future if the door to communication is left open.

Communication encompasses every waking moment of our lives. We invest a lot of time, effort and money into our medical training but we also need to invest in communication skills because that’s what brings life and substance to our medical techniques and expertise.

Upcoming VetPrac CPD events to help you improve your communication skills:


Join Dr. Sandra Nguyen every Tuesday night from July 23rd to enhance your communication techniques in the veterinary practice.

Click here to download the brochure OR Click here to register   



Join Dr. Cathy Warburton every Thursday night from October 17th for resources to develop positive emotions, overcome adversity and get stuff done.

Click here to download the brochure OR Click here to register 

A version of this post was originally published on the VetPrac Blog: Ilana’s top tips for getting through communication barriers and has been republished with permission.

About Ilana

Since graduating from the University of Sydney, Dr Ilana Mendels has worked in a variety of veterinary practices as well as a locum in England. Throughout her experiences, Dr Mendels became aware of the “isolation” a vet can feel, particularly in a rural community, when things get busy or times get tough. 

 In September 2009, Dr Mendels founded VetPrac to meet the professional and social needs of registered veterinary surgeons interested in provided quality services to their clients. VetPrac workshops have provided practical training for over 300 vets.

Click here to visit the VetPrac Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory


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