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Are You Asking Good Questions?

I had an aha! moment recently as I reflected on two conversations.  In one, the other person was seemingly complaining about a situation and I didn’t understand why.  As a result, I believe my comments lacked empathy.  In the second, the person was lamenting their situation and I offered what I thought were helpful suggestions.

Upon reflection, I realized that in both instances, it would have been helpful (for me and the other person) to ask a few good questions.  With a thoughtful question, I could have been a better listener and uncovered their feelings.  Sometimes people just want to be heard and know we care.

The beauty of asking good questions is that it helps us build trust with clients and team members.  It helps us better understand the motivations behind people’s behavior.  And it may even help us motivate them to take specific actions.

Inquisitive, caring individuals ask questions so they can gain information and enhance relationships.  In veterinary medicine, teams ask many questions to gather information but sometimes are lacking in the art of asking questions as a means to engage clients and build rapport.  Examples of these types of questions include:

  • “What fun plans do you have for the summer?”
  • “What kind of toys does Gidget like?”
  • “Tell me how Bucky has been doing since his last visit.”

Once you are in the habit of routinely asking questions, try to be mindful of what a “good” question is.  We all know questions about a pet’s medical history and client preferences are important.  But we often miss opportunities to ask questions that help us connect with clients and team members in a more meaningful way.  The type of questions I’m referencing are those that help build trust, increase understanding and stimulate thought.  Here are examples of questions for clients:

  • “Tell me what’s important to you for Jakes’ diet.”
  • “What are your thoughts about how Tigger is responding to treatment?”
  • “What concerns do you have about Sophie’s treatment plan?”

Here are examples of good questions to ask employees:

  • “What do you value most about your job?”
  • “Are you feeling frustrated with your co-workers?”
  • “Tell me what would help you do your job better.”

Asking good questions help to make sure people feel heard and helps us better understand feelings and thoughts that drive behavior.

How are you doing?   What questions can you ask this week to build trust with clients and your team?

(notice what I just did there?)

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About the Author: Amanda Donnelly
Dr. Amanda Donnelly is a sought-after speaker, author, business consultant, and second-generation veterinarian who combines her practice experience and business expertise to help veterinarians communicate better with their teams and clients. Well known as a dynamic speaker, Dr. Donnelly was the 2023 Practice Management Educator of the Year for WVC and has twice been named Practice Management Speaker of the Year for the VMX Conference. Dr. Donnelly is the author of the book Leading and Managing Veterinary Teams: The Definitive Guide to Veterinary Practice Management and a contributing author for Blackwell’s Five Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult and Pet-Specific Care for Veterinary Teams. She also writes the Talk the Talk communication column for Today’s Veterinary Business journal.