Ask Pet Owners: “Why?”

There is a great article in the New Yorker about Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.  One particularly interesting notion was presented: When people were asked to explain – in detail – their position on something about which they felt strongly, their position weakened once they realized they didn’t have a lot of basis for the opinion.

As consumerism continues to run rampant among pet owners and veterinarian struggle more often with externally-influenced, highly-opinionated clients, new tools and techniques are required to successfully influence people to make the “right” choices for their pets.  One such tool could simply be asking a very basic question:  “Why?”

Asking “Why?”

Veterinarians stand to gain a lot from asking “Why?” to clients who seem stubbornly focused on something that isn’t aligned with the doctor’s thinking.

  • To begin with, per the New Yorker article, there’s a strong likelihood that if a client is asked to explain his/her perspective it will invoke a thought process that may ultimately result in a tempering of the opinion.  It’s much easier to have a client self-actualize and come around to the doctor’s point of view than it is to argue.
  • Another possibility also exists: the client might actually have a valid perspective.  At the same time the doctor asks the client “why?”, the doctor should ask him/herself the same question.  The most likely result is that the doctor will have substantiated his/her perspective and can explain it with greater clarity to the client.  It’s also possible, however, that after thinking it through, the doctor could conceivably change his/her perspective to align with the client.

Using “Why?” To Start a Conversation, Not a Confrontation

It would be dangerously easy to turn “Why?” into a challenge where there’s a winner and a loser.  The New Yorker article addresses the human propensity to want to win.  So the spirit of the “Why?” question and the intended result must be clear – and genuine – to the doctor before asking it.  A good start:  “Let’s talk through this to make sure we’re both aligned in our thinking about how to help your pet. How did you arrive at the conclusion you’re sharing with me?”  Not so good: “Where did you hear that? Why would you think what you said is true?”  An honest-to-goodness desire on the part of the veterinarian to work with the client instead of against him/her will be evident in tone of voice, body language, choice of words, and more.

About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media improves veterinary practice outcomes using integrated communication tools. It is the national leader in Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ and digital stakeholder awareness for veterinary offices. Visit our website ( for more details.


Published by

Peter Alberti

I am driven professionally do to "meaningful things with great people". I love helping people with business, especially people who don't have business as a first love.

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