“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
The heart has its own way of communicating. In our companion animals, it’s the language of unconditional love, non-verbal connections and often instinctive or intuitive gestures. But when it comes to communicating with our fellow human beings, it can be a more complicated issue. There are words, visual cues, body language patterns, voice tonality differences and overall emotional vibes that come into play.
When delivering heart-centred communications in a veterinary clinic, emergency center or specialty practice, there are many things to consider. For instance, timing, responding instead of reacting, economy of words, generosity of heart, tempo of speech and, finally, non-verbal cues that say everything without actually saying a thing all need to be taken into consideration. Animals in the wild depend on their instinctive mastery in these areas, but we humans need some training and strategies to master this art of communicating from the heart.
What does it mean to communicate from the heart?
I find myself considering the opposite, by asking, “What isn’t communicating from the heart? What has to be absent?”
In this day and age, an unprecedented time with the global pandemic, people have felt restricted, isolated and limited. The impact of this ever-changing “wait and see” situation has caused people to be more internalized and less emotionally demonstrative. Behind our clinical masks, our communication and outward expressiveness are limited. Although our hearts reside within us, somehow the pandemic has restricted its “expressive blood flow” to others.
All the while, trips to the vet and emergency services have been short-staffed and full of over-worked, compassion-fatigued, burned-out veterinary professionals. How is it possible for clinics—with some still experiencing Covid-19 restrictions—to be able to offer exceptional service that’s both heart-centered and efficient at the same time?
To do so, all members of the clinic team need to stay tuned into their hearts in order to manage their own wellness from day to day, but also so that they can collaborate with and assist team members and clients from a heart-based core.
Nurses and vet techs are kept on their feet and running to and from vets to clients and back again so often, one wonders where they can get their energy reserves to make it through each day. I believe that our energy is circular like a bio-feedback mechanism. We give energy and it comes back to us. For nurses and vet techs, the ongoing, daily demands require an adequate store of energy. Daily stressors can be effectively managed when we tune in to our energy, and mold and shift our attitudes and emotional states.
What if you imagine that instead of being energetically drained, you are filling yourself with energy, then sending it to your client (the receiver) and then back to you, in a perfect flow; unstuck and fluid. There is no communication apprehension or the accompanying physical symptoms like a racing heart, wet palms, sweating, nervousness or feeling mentally frazzled that sometimes occur when communicating with difficult clients or anticipating their reactions to delivery of bad news. When you free your energy, it is lighter, not burdensome, and generates more of the same.
The opposite is also true. That is, when we are hesitant, it’s easy for energy get stuck inside us. This can occur since we may fear we don’t have the time to discuss all the important details with our client, so we rush through the discharge, or we choose clinical words and hide behind them to keep a distance from the client.
What is actually needed is confidence and reframing of the conversational experience. When going from a moment of treating a pet (a non-verbal animal), to having to explain details to a highly-verbal, highly-anxious pet parent, this can be a quick and abrupt transition from one language to another. And this can cause stress. Breathe, adjust and realize you are someone who is speaking two languages: animal and human.
We must get clear on what is needed, which is compassion for both and recognizing that they need similar and different things. The similar things that both pet and pet parent need are compassion, tenderness, kindness and patience. The differences may include a pet parent who needs repetition or clarity from you, and planning to go “verbal” after using your silent observation and diagnostic skills with the pet.
It is also important to let go of any fear of pet parents and what they may represent. You may have been “traumatized” by angry, hostile or blameful pet parents so your natural proclivity is to avoid them or decrease the length of time you interact with them. But by creating clear boundaries, improving your skills in explaining clearly and with limited clinical terms, and expressing your feelings, the negative emotions associated with pet parent interactions can be greatly decreased.
When we feel seen and appreciated, we offer more of ourselves since we don’t fear being stepped on. And when we communicate from our hearts, not only do others feel our compassion and empathy, but we feel it, too. Kindness is something that costs nothing but gives so much. +