Tips to tackle difficult discussions

Tips to tackle difficult discussions

Help! I stepped on Harley, and he's hurt real bad!" When Scott Wettstein, CVT, heard this frantic pet owner's plea, he knew how to respond. He coaxed the miniature pincher from the truck driver's hands and reassured the gentle giant that the doctors would do the best they could for his pet.

It was the next conversation he'd have with this stranger that made him sweat. He had to ask the truck driver for a down payment; and every minute of Harley's care upped the bill. In the next 15 minutes, the bill could easily skyrocket to $500 just to stabilize the little dog.

Wettstein took a deep breath and said the words he'd used with hundreds of frantic pet owners before: "Sir, we will need a down payment for Harley's care. We accept several major credit cards and offer flexible third-party payment plans. Which option will work best for you?" Then Wettstein presented the estimate.

Conversations you just should not have
He couldn't have been more surprised by what happened next. The truck driver reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash.

It's not always that easy, but Wettstein's protocol guided him through a potentially difficult conversation. Below, you'll find examples of seven tough conversations your colleagues have faced and advice on the best responses.

1. Discussing money with clients

Wettstein's conversation with the truck driver went smoothly—but talking about money isn't always easy, especially when the person isn't a regular client. First-time clients with critically ill pets have often accused Wettstein, a technician at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center in Plover, Wis., of caring only about the money when he asks for a down payment.

"I try to be tactful and explain that a few people who haven't paid their bills have made it difficult for the rest of the clientele," he says. "I say, 'Our first concern is your pet, but we need to keep our doors open, so we require payment at the time of service.' After this conversation, clients usually calm down and we can discuss payment options."

2. Broaching an odor problem with a co-worker

If your co-worker is the source of that funky smell that's been circulating around the practice, you may have a difficult conversation on your hands. And if the odor bothers you, you're the best person to discuss the problem with the offender, says Roger Cummings, CVPM, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a consultant with Brakke Consulting in Dallas. Before you panic, take a deep breath to remind yourself why you're having this discussion. Smells pretty bad, doesn't it? You might not be the only one who thinks so.

Rules of engagement
Cummings offers these tips to launch the conversation. Start by asking to speak to the co-worker in private. Choose your words carefully—you need to be polite, sincere, and sensitive. Remember, the smell is as much your problem as it is her's, so present it this way: "I apologize, Susan, but I'm very sensitive to certain fragrances and smells. I realize this is my problem, but I was hoping you could help. I know you get a lot of compliments on your Dizzy Lizard perfume, but the smell gives me a headache. Would you mind not wearing this fragrance at work?"