Written by Marianne Lomberg
We’re human. But unlike the check-out person at the supermarket, or the call-centre person (whose job I would never want, no matter how much you paid me), when we’re at work, we don’t work from a script. We make decisions that affect our patients’ lives; whether we’re diagnosing them or administering a treatment plan, we’re giving individualized advice about unique, living beings. And that’s hard enough, even for the most confident people.
Much of the time we cannot even fix our own problems – how, then, can we become confident at fixing our patients?
I hope I’m not the only one who’s asked myself this question. If you have too, thank goodness I’m not alone! Read on …
There is a branch of psychology called Transactional Analysis which says that every interaction we have with another human being is a transaction. We’re giving them our attention, maybe our words, and in return we expect to get something back. These transactions start when we’re babies, way too young to understand much except, “I love you” and “I want you to love me back.” The way grown-ups respond to us when we’re babies and toddlers teaches us, whether rightly or wrongly, what we need to do to be loved.
For example, if our parents adored it when we made them laugh, we may learn that playing the fool, or being the centre of attention, is a great way to get people to like us. If they were tired and hassled and just appreciated us curling up next to them quietly, that memory is likely to stay with us at some level long after we move out of our parents’ home.
What does this have to do with vet rehab? Well, you may have a client who just pushes your buttons; someone who takes everything you say the wrong way and just makes you feel uptight. It could be that life has taught them they need to be that way to be okay. And understanding that, in the heat of the moment, in the middle of feeling frustrated and inferior in a consult, has allowed me to get back to focusing on my job so often that I wanted to share it.
Transactional Analysis says that the experiences we have as young children set us up to believe that we have to be certain things in order to be loved. There are five main drivers, formed in childhood, that shape our behaviour. Depending on personal experiences, we may be driven by one or a combination of these:
Please people: We are here to make other people happy, whether that means making them smile or helping them. We strive to please others, even if this means putting our own needs behind theirs, or telling a little white lie for the sake of the greater good.
Be strong: Don’t show emotion or weakness! Don’t ask people for approval! Get through life, cope, succeed, against all odds.
Be perfect: Don’t get it 99% right, because 99% still makes planes fall out of the sky. Be perfectly reliable, perfectly on time, perfectly dressed, the perfect weight. Doing something halfway is as bad as doing nothing at all.
Hurry up: A stitch in time saves nine, my friend! Who cares about spell check – send that email so they know you aren’t ignoring them. Send it now! What are you waiting for? Are you lazy? Don’t you care?
Try hard: You don’t have to be the best, the prettiest or the first to finish. In fact, where you finish, if you finish, doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you tried. Starting is way more important than finishing.
What does this mean for us?
Well, if you’re in a consult that is going well, you’re likely to be in the flow, in the moment, and not to doubt your judgement. But when I find myself being unsure and doubting myself, it really helps to take a step back and ask myself whether my doubt comes from falling into my own personal drivers: the need to be perfect and please people.
When I’m in a situation where I find myself second-guessing my own opinion, I try to take a breath and ask myself whether I’m uncomfortable with the level of knowledge I have about the animal, or whether I’m uncomfortable with the fact that the other person seems not to be as happy as I’d like them to be.
If it’s the animal, I plunge on and try to find out the missing information. And if it’s the person’s reaction, I try to step back and say the magic words to myself: “It’s okay.”
And you know what? It really is okay. Because we all feel less than good enough from time to time. And that doesn’t stop us from doing a great job.
Are you nodding right now? Or shaking your head in disbelief? Either way, why not watch my Facebook video on the Onlinepethealth Page for more detail on what to do when you find yourself caught in conflict with someone who has very different drivers from yours.
See you online!
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