Speaker Coaches Veterinarians on Effective Communication (AAEP 2012)

Speaker Coaches Veterinarians on Effective Communication (AAEP 2012)

Dieken said If veterinarians can effectively influence their communications they'll have clients for life.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

More than half of horse owners participating in a recent survey reported they had at one time or another fired their veterinarian. The reasons were not based on the vets' intelligence, availability, or cost but, rather, communications failures and dissatisfaction with practitioners' attitudes. In light of this data, author and keynote speaker Connie Dieken described ways veterinarians can improve communications and effectively influence clients at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners' (AAEP) Convention held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

Picking up on the theme of her book, Talk Less and Say More, Dieken noted that we live in an impatient and distracted world that is in the throes of a communication revolution. "In the face of these 'weapons of mass distraction,' the way we communicate has forever changed," Dieken emphasized. "Every communication has three aspects: A, the one you deliver; B, the one you wished you had delivered; and C, the one your audience experiences."

If veterinarians can effectively influence their communications, she remarked, they'll have clients for life that will respect boundaries and be willing to pay for services. To achieve this end, she suggested her audience members become facile in three different types of communication skills.

First, being connected--this person captures a client's attention and is able to stay in his or her moment."The problem," Dieken reported, "is that we often get caught up in our moment and miss identifying with the other person's emotions or recognizing their resistance." She illustrated this idea using Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech: He hadn't intended to give that unforgettable speech after his original address; he only did so after looking out over the sea of people and, realizing they wanted and needed more, he stayed with them "in their moment."

The next communication tool is the ability to convey information to people with whom you have now connected. Dieken said to "simplify to amplify," when explaining complex topics. She advised that "eyes trump the ears" because the brain processes visual information 10 times faster than auditory information; therefore, showing clients rather than telling them vastly improves their understanding. Dieken also noted that providing three options, steps, bullet points, etc., helps people gain an optimal understanding of concepts.

Finally, the third communication skill is that of convincing. A veterinarian must earn clients' trust before horse owners will commit to following his or her lead . "The most important part to achieving this end relies on how you make people feel," she said, explaining that the limbic system within the brain is what drives decisions and feelings. She suggested that veterinarians must sound decisive and must figure out ways to "transfer ownership" so that people embrace suggestions as if they are their own ideas. She also suggested veterinarians adjust energy levels and body language appropriately in how they present the suggestions.

"By combining these three communication skills," Dieken expressed, "You can become an influencer and be the communicator your clients want you to be."

About the Author

Nancy S. Loving, DVM

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her recent book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care (available at Shop.TheHorse.com or by calling 800/582-5604). She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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