« 5. Veterinarians: Emotional intelligence tips 1-5 »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Emotional intelligence and EQ are needed by a range of professional people, including veterinarians. Emotions are part of all human beings, and thus any professional person working with people automatically has people's emotions to manage. 

However, veterinarians, in particular, face and have to deal with a complex array of emotional factors, making their need for high levels of emotional intelligence even greater than some other occupations. 

A vet is not simply dealing with a person but most often with an animal owner who quite often has a sick animal of one sort or another. Sick or injured animals bring up a whole range of emotions in people.

Whether you, as a vet, are dealing with a farmer who is facing a loss of a livelihood, or a child whose pet has become ill, emotions are very much a part of the veterinarian's work.

This is the first of two articles covering five emotional intelligence tips for veterinarians.

A second article covers an additional set of emotional intelligence tips: Veterinarians: Emotional intelligence tips 6-10.

EI tip 1: Understand the emotions in the human-animal bond

Veterinarians are working within the context of strong human-animal bonds between owners and their animals. In many instances you may be working with a vulnerable member of the owner's family.

A parrot may not just be a "parrot". It might be "Peter the Parrot". And Peter might belong to a nine year old who loves him because it was given to him by his grandfather before he died.

You're dealing with the memories, the love, the connections between the child and his pet, not just a parrot.

Acknowledging the existence and importance of this bond is a vital step in applying emotional intelligence in the vet clinic.

EI tip 2: Verbalise your caring for the animal

Some of the commonest complaints lodged against vets revolve around poor communication and a perceived lack of caring. Don't let this happen to you. Make it obvious that you care. This is being emotionally intelligent.

Sometimes your level of technical skills and focused attention on the animal will convey sufficient compassion and caring. At other times a simple declaration out-loud to its owner may more successfully get the message across. 

Just a short simple statement, said with genuine kindness and sincerity, may go straight to the owner's heart, e.g. "I'm worried about Kitty, poor Kitty I don't like to see her in pain. I am sure we can help her be more comfortable."

The second competency on the Genos model of emotional intelligence states that the ability to express your own emotions is a vital part of emotional intelligence, and this is relevant to every vet clinic.

EI tip 3: Look for the owner's feelings

When people are upset about their animals they can experience a variety of feelings.

  • They may be scared they're going to lose life-long companions.
  • They may feel guilty that they didn't bring their animals to the vet soon enough.
  • They may be anxious about paying the bills.

Look for these feelings. Pay attention to them. Seek them out. They can help you know how to best manage and relate to the owners.

Being able to read others' emotions is competency three on the Genos emotional intelligence model. How well do you do this?

EI tip 4. Name the owner's feelings

Help the owners feel understood and cared for by demonstrating that you understand their feelings.

Tell people that you know how they feel by naming their feelings.

Don't say "I understand how you feel." There is no evidence in this statement that you do. Nor do the owners know what you've understood.

Instead, name their feelings and the key points that they've made, e.g. "You sound anxious about your dog's lack of energy", or "So you're feeling overwhelmed by everything that's happening". Prove you've understood.

This all helps to manage the owner's feelings, and being able to manage the feelings of others is a key aspect of emotional intelligence.

EI tip 5. Develop a clear emotional vocabulary

To speak the language of emotional intelligence requires a wide vocabulary of feeling words, in other words, emotional literacy.

When you acknowledge people's feelings you need to get the right feelings. This means saying something other than, "I can see you're angry".

It may be they feel embarrassed, ripped-off, hurt, put-down, furious, indignant, insulted, slighted, powerless, taken for granted, or any of a large range of feelings that can be grouped under the umbrella term of "anger".

When you use the words that accurately describe their emotions that's when your clients really know that you understand.

How high is your emotional intelligence?

Developing your emotional intelligence and applying high level emotional intelligence skills in your veterinary practice or clinic could increase the reputation and success of your practice.

Learn more about dealing positively with customer emotions

There is so much that you can do to develop the emotional intelligence of you and your team so customers and their animals are managed superbly. The EI Institute has a number of options to help you:
  1. There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. Of particular value to your staff is the one "How to keep your cool with difficult people".
  2. There is a dynamic keynote speech on "A duck's back: Keeping cool with negativity" which will get your event buzzing and help your practice team.
  3. There are emotional intelligence CDs, DVDs and books particularly the unique and practical 2 CD set, "How to deal with difficult people WITHOUT GETTING UPSET". Bulk discounts are available so all your team may have their own copy.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.