Educated guessing has its place in medicine, but not in client discussions.
They didn't teach Clairvoyance 101 in veterinary school, but that doesn't stop many in our profession from trying to read the minds of our clients. Or at the very least, trying to guess clients' intentions based on everything from appearance, home address, ethnicity, family status, profession, or the family car. It's normal human behavior to try to fast-track the process of gathering information, but you're not serving your clients or their pets when you do.
I've long observed that some people who can barely afford it put their pet's best interests first even when it means real sacrifice to do so. On the other hand, sometimes people far more affluent decline care, allowing pets to suffer or to be put at unnecessary risk of pain or worse.
You just can't know, and you should never assume that you do. So don't even try.
Instead, every time you walk into an exam room you should raise your head, lower and square your shoulders, and walk in as an advocate for what's best for the animal in front of you. Make your recommendations without apology and without expecting to be turned down. That alone will get you the owner's consent more often than you think. I know because I've practiced this for years.
I've replaced assumptions with questions, and I provide the best advice I can as a medical professional. I help my clients make the best decisions, and when they cannot afford what I suggest, I help them to prioritize everything, so eventually it can all get done.
Rather than judging a book by its cover, when you meet someone you need to realize you hold in your hands an open book, with the story ready to be written and enjoyed. You'll be better for it, and so will your patients, your clients and, yes, your bottom line.
Dr. Marty Becker is a popular speaker and author of more than 22 top-selling books, including The Healing Power of Pets. He is the resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show, and the lead veterinary contributor to VetStreet.com. Dr. Becker practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Ida. and Lakewood Animal Hospital in Coeur d'Alene, Ida.