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.

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Veterinary Professionals: NOT Sales People!

AUTHOR:  Peter Alberti

I read this article today and wanted to comment on it.  #2 resonated with me in a big way — veterinarians truly are “wired” for their chosen profession.

I’ve come to recognize that the best value Pet Cause Media can provide to veterinarians is helping them with something most of them find fundamentally uncomfortable: “selling” to their clients. As an avid observer of human behavior, I was delighted to learn that what we offer is not only beneficial to the business (the practice) but also materially to the people in it.

This lesson, along with #2 from the article above, reminded me about my own preferences and how my own brain operates.  I started college with music school (sound recording technology) and had to take physics-based calculus.  I failed it twice; I could never get my head around the concept of gravity and falling objects.  But when I switched to business school and applied the exact same math to money (marginal rate of return, for example), I got an “A”.

Now that I have three kids and can see their preferences emerge through their school work and their activities, it’s that much more clear to me that people are just “wired” differently.  This isn’t a major revelation.  But how to make this concept productive?

Well, getting back to the veterinary profession — and why #2 in the article is important — Continue reading Veterinary Professionals: NOT Sales People!