When a client says, “I read online that…” many of us cringe.
Dread and frustration often bubble up.
We become defensive and impatient.
Today more than any time in history, information is easily available.
Unfortunately, misinformation is easily available, too.
However, it’s not our job to police the internet.
Our job is to help the client and patient in front of us… that is all.
So what do we do when client begins sharing everything the internet told them, and maybe even trying to dictate how we treat their pet?
We start by taking a breath!
In this episode I share how you can navigate these interactions in a way that is powerful and professional for you, but also supportive of the client and patient in front of you.
A client who values information is a great client to have, and one you can always find common ground with when you are willing to both listen and share.
But remember this: You never have to compromise the way you practice medicine. Your approach to any case is yours alone to decide.
Clients can accept your recommendations, or not. That part you’ll never control. But feeling frustrated about the information and perspective they arrive with… that part is always optional.
Take a listen and learn how you can gracefully navigate these conversations with your wellbeing intact and your mind at ease.
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This transcript is auto-generated and may contain typos. Hi there. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, veterinarian, certified life coach and certified quantum human design specialist. If you are a veterinary professional looking to up-level your life and your career, or maybe looking to go in an entirely new direction, then what I talk about here on the Joyful DVM podcast is absolutely for you. Let's get started. Hello my friends. Welcome back to another episode of the Joyful DVM podcast. Today we're going to be talking about when clients say I read online that dot, dot, dot, I'm sure, as I even say those words out loud, some of you're starting to cringe. Many of us do. So think about the scenario. You're looking at the appointments that are scheduled for you today, and one of them says, owner read online that dot, dot, dot insert, whatever, you know, whatever scenario is there. Or you're in the exam room with a client and then they just flat out say, well, I read online that, or people in this group online said, and they insert information, which is either gonna be accurate or false information. I'm wanting to know how do you feel when those words fall out of their mouth? I read online that many of us cringe. Many of us feel dread, many of us also feel pretty offended. We can also feel pretty discouraged. And that's what I wanna talk about today because as technology continues to grow, the internet is not going to go away. And if we allow ourselves to feel frustrated and offended every single time a client shares with us what they read online, we are going to end up feeling frustrated much of the time. So how do we deal with these situations when clients offer to us information that they read elsewhere? Well, we wanna start out and remind ourselves of a few things. Number one, the client who is researching online about their pet is actually going above and beyond what a lot of people do in regard to their pet care. They're curious, they value information, and they're doing what they can to try to figure out what's going on with their own animal. I think that that is actually an opportunity for common ground. We wanna figure out what's going on with their animal too. And so, yes, it is true that it is very possible and very common that the information that people read online about how to care for their pets and about their maladies may be completely inaccurate. I'm not arguing that point, but what I want us to recognize is the value of the pet owner who has taken the time to research and to try to figure it out on their own. Now, I'm not saying figuring it out on your own is a better option than coming to the veterinary hospital, and that actually brings me to point number two about this pet owner who's standing in front of you telling you about what they've learned online. Many of us often miss that yes, they do value information and I've already covered that. They've done some research on their own, but they also value your opinion. After all, they're in your veterinary hospital in an appointment with you getting ready to pay you money to learn what you think about their pet. We often miss this when our egos get so bent outta shape as soon as the words I read online that coming out of their mouth. So if we'll just take a second to take a breath and remind ourselves of what is true, that no matter what they did read online, they're actually right here in an appointment with us, then that can help us again to find that common ground, which is the most important thing that you can find during that veterinary visit. So bring yourself back to the truth of the situation. You have, at the very least, a pet owner who values information and one that will seek information and one that values your opinion, or at least the opinion of a professional, of a veterinary professional because they have actually made that appointment with you. Now, of course, we do have those clients who sometimes wanna come in and dictate how you're going to practice based on what they read online. And again, there's a lot of opportunity in that moment to feel offended. But I wanna offer you the option of just not even bothering getting offended by that. Because no matter what the client says in the exam room, the way that you practice is yours and yours alone to decide always you get to make whatever medical recommendation feels right for you based on the patient and the exam. That doesn't change just because somebody comes in with different information. So I think there's a bit of a three part process that we can use whenever we are faced with a client who's done a lot of research online, who is willing to share right up front. I did, I checked up this out online, or I asked some people online or I heard online, there's a three part process that we can use to navigate these appointments and make things a lot easier on everybody involved. The first thing is to find something that you agree with or a bit of information that they learned that is actually accurate. So in all of the things that they're gonna tell you that they learned, you can probably find one little thing that is true. And so if you can find one thing that's accurate or one thing they that they share with you that you agree with, start there so that you can find that common ground that helps them to see that you're listening to what they have to say. And just because you are probably about to offer a completely different perspective and in a completely different base of information, it doesn't negate everything that they've already learned. So a lot of us, we wanna dive right in, right? We dive in and tell them all the things that are wrong with what they just shared with us. But that's the absolute wrong approach in my opinion, because as soon as we start trying to debunk everything that they've learned, they become defensive, they might even become embarrassed. And if they're feeling defensive and embarrassed, they're not gonna be listening to anything that you have to offer. So I recommend instead as a starting point to find one thing that you can agree with about what they're saying, or even if you can't find anything that is accurate, saying something like, isn't it great that we have all these different ways that we can search for information about the things that we're interested in? That one little sentence, it doesn't mean that you agree with anything that they say, but you give them some encouragement for the fact and some recognition for the fact that they actually took the time to do some research and to try to find some information. So that's what I would do is step one, step two is to make an offer to them to share your own perspective and experience. So I would say, would you mind if I shared with you my perspective and my experience about this, this exact topic? And they're likely gonna say no. Yes, please do. And so again, as you share your perspective and your experience, which is your medical opinion about whatever the topic may be, you don't need to do it from a state of intending to debunk everything that they already learned. You can just offer what is true when it comes to you. So what is your opinion? What is your perspective? What is your experience shown? Just share that from a genuine place and not try to have an underlying motive of canceling out everything else they learned. Clients are smarter than we give them credit for. And when we give them information in a very confident and professional manner, in a way that is kind and isn't defensive and combative, then they are very likely to actually hear what we have to say. And that goes both ways, right? The client who is defensive and combative with us, we don't hear half of what they say either. And so when they do come in and they say, I wrote this online, we automatically, our defenses go up. And so we don't actually hear. That's why that step one and finding some kind of common ground or something that you can agree with is important. And then step two, just offering for them, would you like to hear my perspective and my experience on this topic? They're going to come right back to center. They're gonna be right there with you in that moment. And the vast majority of them are gonna say yes, because that's why they've made the appointment in the first place. And then once you've done that and you've done your physical exam and you've got your medical recommendations, then number three is simply to make the recommendations based on how you practice medicine, period, not making recommendations based on the combination of what they learned online and what you found. At the end of the day, you're gonna make the recommendations for the animal based on what you know. What did you find on your physical exam? What did you learn from the history that you took? That's what you're gonna make your medical recommendations based on. And now if some clients say, but what about this and what about that, that odds are you're going to have an answer for that. Well, this well online said to treat it with X, Y, z, Kelly, they very well may have, and maybe that would be an appropriate treatment, maybe it wouldn't. But we don't have enough information yet to even know if that's what's going on with your pet. That's one way that you can handle it. Or if it's a medication that you know has, is absolutely contraindicated in animal animals, then you can just gently share that. And what there's a really kind of fine line to walk with this because owners come in, they, you know, remember like they're worried about their animals, they're concerned about their pets, they care about their pets a great deal. All of this is anchored in the care that they have for their pets. And us as human beings. When they come in with a boatload of information and they kinda start throwing at us what they've learned online. And some of them are even kind of trying to dictate what you do as your veterinary practice. We just have to take a nice deep breath and remember that they're in your playground here. You're here to help them in the way that you practice medicine. You're not here to follow orders from anybody. I'm not trying to set up a situation where it's us against them because that creates way more problems than it does benefits. But I do wanna remind us that just because clients make demands does not mean that we have to give in to those demands, especially if it doesn't go along with the way that you would approach the case. And so you can just gently say, this is the way that I would approach this. This is what I found. This is what I suspect is going on. This is what we need to do next to find out. And then based on that, once we have a diagnosis, then we'll move forward with treatment based on the data that we have, not based on just for best guesses. And go from there. Most clients are gonna understand that some clients are gonna get huffy, they're gonna wanna leave because they just wanted to come in and get whatever they wanted to get. And they didn't necessarily want another opinion. That's not the majority. But those people who do that, who come in and try to dictate to you how you're going to treat their pet, don't forget that you still always get to decide for you. They can't force you to do anything. And in this day and age, it's very easy to believe that you have to give in to that kind of pressure from a client because of a fear that they might relieve a negative review or say something bad about your practice. But if that happened, don't you think that you would have a defendable opinion if they said something online that was negative and hateful because you wouldn't just give whatever medication they asked for? 'cause you know that's not the way they're gonna word it right? When they word it, they're going to probably say something about how you didn't care about them and how you wouldn't help their pet. But if they take it to that, for me personally, I would respond. I would share, no, that's not exactly what happened. Mrs. Smith, as you recall, you came in and you were worried about Fluffy, and I made some recommendations to do some tests so we could figure out exactly what was going on with Fluffy, but you just wanted me to treat her with medicine and that you thought she needed. That's just not how we do things here. I'm more than happy to help you with Fluffy, but I don't know what's wrong with her unless I run some diagnostic tests. I'm happy to do that. If you wanna come back in. Now, there'll be people who hear me say that, and they will have been given advice that they're never supposed to respond to anything online. And I just have to say, that's your own individual choice. If you need to consult your attorney, there's not a one size fits all on this. Some people just wanna ignore it completely. And I think that's also a fine approach. You get to decide. But what I don't want to happen is for you to start compromising the way that you practice medicine out of fear, and that little sentence, that beginning of a sentence I read online, that that creates a lot of fear and a lot, a lot of aggravation for many of us. Hopefully, as you've listened to what I've had to say today, you'll kind of be able to create your own path forward with these, remembering the pet owner who does that values information and you have information to share. So let's step back into our own authority and offer up that information. We don't have to be at doing do it, being defensive. We don't have to do it trying to be right. There's nothing to win here. We wanna remember that there's nothing to win here. We're not gonna win the battle of who has the right information. You're just simply going to give your information and you're going to give your recommendations, and they're gonna process it however they're gonna process it. 'cause at the end of the day, no matter where the information came from, the owner gets to decide for themselves just like you get to decide how to practice, they get to decide how to proceed. That's part of this veterinary care cycle that never changes when it comes down to deciding what to do for the pet. That is always 100% of the time a client decision. When we become offended or discouraged by their decisions, we need to notice that we're trying to control something that isn't ours to control. We're often believing that we can control outcomes if we can control client decisions and my friends, that is never, ever true. As we live in a world where it seems more important than ever to play defense, to be ready for the attack, I wanna offer you that living your life from that kind of stance is really stressful and not necessary. It doesn't actually matter how the rest of the world responds to what you do. The only thing you need to do, what is what is right for you? So when it comes to the practice of veterinary medicine, you need to practice medicine and the way that aligns with the way that you want to do it. And if you don't want to consider outside information, if you don't want to be dictated to on how you're supposed to do your job, then don't. That's completely up to you. But just use these opportunities with clients whenever they come in with this bucket full of stuff that they learned online. Use these opportunities to just notice how you automatically respond. Do you feel dread? Do you feel annoyed? Do you feel offended? Because if you feel any of those things, it's not because the client looked up stuff online. I promise you it's not. It's because you believe that they shouldn't have, or you believe that online information is always inaccurate or you believe they value the online information more than they value you. Those beliefs are yours and yours alone to control. We will never know the motives of the pet owners, but I do think that we can assume one thing about every single pet owner that comes into our veterinary practices and that assumption is that they care about their pets. They wouldn't have bothered to come if they didn't care. And even if they are just grossly miseducated about a topic, that's okay because they're still there. You don't have to fight off the other perspective. You just have to share the information and experience that you already have. You just need to do your job, do the physical exam, take the history and make recommendations on what you see with your own eyes on what you heard with your own ears. Make recommendations from there. And from there, they may come back with, well, what about what I read about this? And they may share something else. And then in that opportunity, in that moment, you have opportunity to explain where there might be confusion to help them to understand why your recommendation is different than what they read or heard from somebody else. We don't need to be offended by that. It's opportunity to educate a pet, pet owner who's really trying to understand what's going on. When we get offended, it's because we are believing that they shouldn't be looking to other information other than us. When we get annoyed or agitated, it's usually because we're thinking about how much time it's gonna take to educate them on this, these things. And we forget that part of our job is simply to educate owners and my friends. We don't have to solve every single thing and educate on every single topic in one visit. We wanna remember that as well. At the end of the day, clients are gonna be clients. And the more and more that technology is available to all of us, our clients are going to be more educated than ever. That education that they get on their own is sometimes gonna be accurate and oftentimes isn't. Whether or not you are frustrated and annoyed by this is simply yours to decide. Trying to discourage all the pet owners from looking stuff up online is not going to make any of us feel better. It's not going to make our jobs any easier either, because there's always been an opportunity for somebody to get information outside of the little world that we create. The more that we can embrace the idea that information is readily available to everybody, and we can embrace the concept that veterinary practice is ours and ours alone, to decide how to do for ourselves, the easier it is to accept that there are all kinds of different perspectives. And to remember that we always serve the willing. What I mean by that is that we will help the people who want to be helped in the way that we offer to help them. We were never meant to be all things to all people. We were never meant to be all veterinarians. To every client who needs veterinary assistance, that client who comes in, who loves everything that you offer, is your ideal client, the one that comes in and argues and rejects everything that you have to say may not be your ideal client at all. Maybe your practice isn't the best fit. That doesn't mean that you've wasted your time, and it doesn't mean that you've wasted your breath. What I've learned about clients like this is they're actually retaining much more than we ever even give them credit for. And even if they don't act on that new information right now, odds are they're taking that information with them to the next place they go. And oftentimes what I find is that they actually come back months or years later because they remember what you said, even if they didn't take your advice in the moment. So don't underestimate the power of the influence that you actually do have on every single client, and don't miss the opportunity to help that pet, even if your help today is simply by giving them new information to consider. Don't miss that opportunity because you've become offended or annoyed by the information that that client has brought with them to the visit. That is only gonna push you further and further away from the animal that you're there to help. My friends, this world is really small and the information available to us is really great, and it's getting greater all the time. Just never forget that every patient that comes in, every client that comes in has a pet that they actually care about. And don't forget that you always have an opportunity to find that common ground, to share your perspective and your recommendations, and then to stay in your lane and let the owner decide for them their choices have nothing to do with your value. Their choices have nothing to do with your value. What I mean by that is if they decide to follow your advice or not, your value stays intact. Your job was simply to educate, to give them options, and then to follow through with whatever they decided. And yes, perhaps outside information from the internet influence whatever that ultimate decision is. But that's okay. You can't control everything in this world, but you can control the way that you interact with your clients, the information you share, and the recommendations that you make for their pets. That's really all you're ever supposed to do. And when you'll stick to that and stop trying to debunk other information and trying to defend your recommendations, you'll find that this job gets a whole lot easier. All right, my friends, that's gonna wrap it up for this week. If this episode resonated with you, I hope you'll share it with a friend. See you next time.