The ability to be a good listener is crucial to the success of anybody working in the hospitality industry, such as veterinary technicians. A veterinary technician does not only work with the animals that they care for, but they must also work well with those animals owners. Effective communication skills and listening skills will enable a veterinary technician to be able to convey sympathy, compassion, and understanding when dealing with sensitive issues, such as an animal in need of a risky surgery or euthanasia of a family pet. There are many techniques that can be used to be a good listener, to clarify what a coworker or client has said to better understand them, and ways to communicate a thought so that coworkers or clients can listen and fully understand said thought.
The Harvard Business Review did a study to determine what qualities great, not just good, listeners possess. Their article states “most people are taught to stay quiet while another person is talking, give facial expressions and verbal sounds to show they are paying attention, and to be able to repeat what a person has said, almost verbatim.” However, their research proved that those who were considered to be the best listeners did not stay silent while the speaker talked to them, instead, they asked questions that promoted discovery and insight, while also creating a positive experience by supporting and conveying confidence in the speaker. The conversations were considered cooperative, meaning that feedback flowed smoothly between both speaker and listener without either becoming defensive, and the best listeners made suggestions after gaining the trust of the speaker throughout their conversation (Folkman & Zenger, 2016).
There are many other techniques that can demonstrate that a veterinary technician is a good listener. When listening to a client or coworker, he or she should prepare themselves to listen, keep consistent eye contact, and remain undistracted. They should also look at the speaker and concentrate on what they are saying, listen with empathy and not just what is being said, but how it is being said, and not interrupt the speaker while they are talking (Renda-Francis, n.d.). These listening skills are imperative when supporting a client while they are considering euthanizing their pet. Making the decision to euthanize a beloved pet can be one of the most difficult decisions for any owner to make, and they likely will only open up to the veterinarian, however, having body language that is positive and open might allow for a client to trust the veterinary technician (Renda-Francis, n.d.).
Paraphrasing a client or coworkers words is not only a great way to develop listening skills, but it can also help to clarify what they really meant to say. For example, when admitting a patient and obtaining their symptoms, if a client says their dog will not eat and has been throwing up, a veterinary technician could ask “So your pet will not eat, and she vomited this morning?” The client might then say “Well, actually, she threw up yesterday, and she has not eaten since then” (Renda-Francis, n.d.). By doing this, a veterinary technician now has a better understanding of when the symptoms began and the client has felt that the veterinary technician has really listened. If a coworker would to say “Can you please check on the two dogs in boarding this afternoon?” and the veterinary technician asked “So you want me to check on Toto and Daisy at 2 P.M.?” then the coworker might be more specific and say “Yes, those two dogs but 3 P.M. would be best.” Again, now there is now a better understanding and the coworker knows he or she was listened to. Paraphrasing can help lead to less confusion and miscommunication.
A veterinary technician might struggle with understanding his or her client if they have a different language or culture, and vice versa. To avoid miscommunications that can be perceived as discrimination or prejudice, a veterinary technicians’ attitude and body language should always be positive and respectful. If communication is difficult based on a language barrier, then a veterinary technician can use nontraditional methods such as drawing pictures on a piece of paper, using hand signals, or finding somebody else in the practice who can speak the client’s language to better communicate (Renda-Francis, n.d.). Regardless of if a client has a physical, mental, or emotional deficiency, a veterinary technician should never judge, label, or stereotype these types of clients. They should be treated the same way as any other client, while being willing to provide them with an extra hand if needed. To avoid racial or ethnic prejudices, a veterinary technician should treat all clients equally (Renda-Francis, n.d.).
Effective communication is essential for a client or coworker to understand what a veterinary technician has expressed and to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. While speaking, the veterinary technician should maintain positive body language by making eye contact and avoiding crossing the arms or displaying nervous ticks, which can help avoid misinterpreting what the veterinary technician is saying to his or her coworker or client. If a veterinary technician were to say to a coworker that they “are having a great day”, but they avoided eye contact, slouch, and cross their arms, it might appear that this is not the truth (Robinson, Segal, & Smith, 2018). If speaking to a client, for example, while discharging their pet, the veterinary technician should be clear and concise, rather than drawing out stories that can cause their listener’s mind to wander (Renda-Francis, n.d.). A veterinary technician’s ability to have patience when trying to make sure that a coworker or client understands them is probably the most important communication skill (Robinson, Segal, & Smith, 2018). Getting frustrated may only lead to them becoming overwhelmed and no longer being willing to listen.
When discharging a surgical patient, it is crucial that a veterinary technician makes sure that the client understands any instructions for patient care. Most of the time, the prescribed medication, along with the drug name, dosage, how it’s to be given, and how often is included with the instructions. Any dietary modifications, the animal’s recommended activity level, the level of necessary confinement, what the incision, if any, looks like, specific instructions about what to look for and when to call if a problem arises, and scheduled follow-up visits are also included. This can be quite a lot of information for a client to receive at one time, so it is best to have all of this information printed out, to go over it slowly with the client, and to ask questions to ensure that they understand the information (Renda-Francis, n.d.).
A veterinary technician that cannot only be a good listener, but can also communicate well with others, can be an asset to any veterinary practice. Those that can do this, while showing respect and empathy towards clients, help give a practice the good name that it needs to grow and be successful. There are many useful techniques for being a good listener, such as listening and not interrupting while another person is speaking, paying attention without any distractions, and maintaining eye contact. Paraphrasing, using nontraditional methods for explanations, and remaining respectful towards all clients, regardless of their background, can help avoid any miscommunications or accusations of discrimination. Using effective communication skills and ensuring a fellow employee or client understands what has been said can ensure that they have listened and understand what has been said. Strong interpersonal skills help a veterinary technician thrive as an employee, and as a human being in the outside world.