The basis for all communication: the right attitude... - Veterinary Practice
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The basis for all communication: the right attitude…

discusses ‘attitude’, how to
develop a good attitude for
communication and how to
handle the most difficult person
you deal with

“HIRE for attitude – not for skills.” That is an often said thing when it comes to requirement – but what is it about attitude that is important in so many areas? When I talk about attitude, I talk about what people have before anything happens. So to me, attitude is the mindset you bring to the table or the situation, the way you view your world or the pattern of memories and previous actions that form preconceived notions about what could happen.

Different attitudes, different results

We’ve all been there. Someone who looks like or sounds like someone else whom we don’t like – and we are immediately on guard in case this person turns out to be just the same. Attitude is impossible to avoid, yet the wrong attitude will sabotage you, the people you work with and the practice faster than anything else. Again, think of a recruitment situation. Who would be the wise person to choose:

  • the senior vet who can handle anything, has seen everything and has a lot of experience – but he struggles with eye contact and gets offended at some of the questions asked in the interview situation;
  • the recently graduated vet who has the attitude of “I want to learn” and who listens avidly for anything you say and shows a willingness to develop himself?

Personally – I would go for number two any day, purely based on the attitude displayed. If people are open and willing, they can learn pretty much anything and they are usually a pleasure to be around. Attitude is especially important in all areas of communication. Here are two examples of attitudes when thinking about communicating something to the rest of the practice:

  • I know what is right, so I WILL get them to pay attention this time;
  • I have some good ideas here, but it would be interesting to listen to all the other bright people in the practice to learn more and understand what would be the best approach for everyone.

What is a good attitude to have for communication?

A good “communication-attitude” has as its base premise the following:

  1. everyone has something to say that is worth listening to;
  2. the more I understand where others come from, the better decisions I will be able to make;
  3. I don’t know everything – and I don’t know who will teach me the most important lesson here.

It sets you up for a humble mindset that is open to listening – in any situation. Even with aggressive or confrontational people, this mindset will serve you well. When you truly listen to a contrary person, they will often “talk themselves out” and start winding down. These people tend to be people who want to be noticed and by having the right attitude to begin with, you are more likely to take the time to listen patiently – which may diffuse the situation so effectively that you don’t need to do anything else.

Oh, no – it went wrong: what now?

What about when you get into situations where everything seems to go wrong and you don’t know what to do? There is a great expression that helps me remember to take a step back and re-adjust my attitude: “Get over yourself.” What this refers to in my
book is that we are our own worst enemies. We come into a discussion or a situation with a whole history of encounters throughout our lives – and so we inevitably come into it with some pre-conceived notions about what the other person is likely to do and say. Well, here is a thing that anyone who works with troubled teenagers will tell you: what you expect is what you will get. If you expect a sullen, argumentative attitude, that is exactly what will happen. If you expect something different, you will react differently when you get the argumentative attitude – and that more than anything else will help change it. A classic example is dealing with very negative people, the ones who will turn any situation into something to complain about. You have a choice there. You can let yourself be worn down by their attitude or you can choose to re-interpret what they are saying and put a positive spin on it. For example: “This is ridiculous – we are run off our feet here and that is just not acceptable.” Reply: “Yes, isn’t it wonderful that we are so successful that soon we will be able to afford more nursing help!” Or: “She only got the job because she was flirting with the owner; now that she has it she doesn’t need to do that anymore.” Reply: “Yes, she certainly has a wonderful understanding of how to influence people – isn’t it great that we now have that resource available to all the practice!” So with every difficult person you deal with, tell yourself in the most understanding way, “Come on, I need to get over myself here,” take a step back and do the basics. Listen, listen and listen again – then think about what is actually going on here. And ask the person what the two of you can do about it. Together.

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