‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’
“Worst f*cking place ever and the vet Deborah is a bitch F*CK that should eat sh*t and die slow.”
When my client shared this review with me, a pit swelled in my stomach. I fully know how a comment like that can blindside you, whack the breath out of your body and overtake your mind with rage. I often find myself thinking after seeing reviews like that, Sheesh! What a business!
I live in a very rural part of Pennsylvania. At the town gym, I’ll sometimes hear a grizzled local indicting the nearby vet, whom I know to be extremely caring and as affordable as she can possibly be. One man particularly stands out in my memory. “I tell you what I don’t recommend you do,” he’d said, sojourning on one of the stationary bikes. “I don’t recommend you use the vet we got up here. She’ll take you for everything you got!”
Talk like that makes my eyes bug, and I’ll challenge the remark even if I’m not in the conversation. In fact, my eyes did bug when I challenged this particular man. “Actually, I know the vet you’re talking about,” I interrupted from across the room. “And I can guarantee you that she’s not trying to rip you off. She and her team work extremely hard to keep costs low and still deliver the best care.”
In these situations, the party will squirm in the face of the rebuttal but never give in. To be blunt, they’re usually too ignorant to be reasoned with. That man, of course, could not be reasoned with.
“You can’t tell me that charging $25 for the same medication I can buy online for $12 is fair!” he fired right back.
We’d scrapped back and forth like this before he wore me out with his pigheadedness. I almost always allow the debate to trail off into silence. Like I said, it’s a small town, and I can only push the envelope so far.
It’s ironic that our strong interest in caring for both pets and people is what keeps us in the profession, and yet frequently both return our kindness with snaps, barks and bites. I’m reminded of one guy who came to my old practice with a dog presenting with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Tears streaming down his face, he begged me to put the pet’s bill on house credit so he could pay it off over time.
Against every warning from my employer, I went out on a limb and allowed him to do it. Within a month, he defaulted. He never returned my phone calls, and once, when he passed me on the street, he actually smirked. It was everything I could do to not tackle him then and there and beat the living daylights out of him.
We work in a job where the very best we have to offer people, pets and the world is sometimes thrown savagely and ungratefully back in our faces. It’s natural to be furious, devastated or completely winded in the face of such ingratitude, but it’s important that you quickly recover from these feelings, lest they affect your happiness, thinking, health and sense of self. Here’s a short list of what to do when you’ve been the undeserving target of a client’s anger.
Support one another: In the wake of a client’s fury, support from those we work with and trust goes a long way in mitigating our feelings of inadequacy and injustice.
Stop thinking about it: I don’t mean to be glib, but sometimes you just have to tell your mind to stop playing and then replaying the same bad episode. One trick is to wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you feel your thoughts spiraling down a drain of resentment and shame. Snapping the band helps remind us that we are living in the now, not in the fog of the past.
Try “I AM” affirmations: It seems that most of us tend to dwell on the few negative things in our lives and forget about all the terrific things that are in it. “I AM” affirmations (you can find examples on YouTube) help to drown out the Chinese water torture of negative thinking by which we sometimes terrorize ourselves.
Noli illegitimi carborundum: Roughly translated as “don’t let the bastards grind you down,” this concocted Latin phrase is a reminder that even the Romans had their share of assh*les. Stay focused on those who appreciate who you are and the value you bring to the world. People who fume and rage have a wellspring of misery as the source of their feelings and actions. You don’t need to heap any more negative thoughts on top of them—they’re already doing a terrific job at burying themselves in a grave of unhappiness.