It’s easy to get beaten down and your patience worn thin when you work in animal welfare. You consistently see people “getting rid” of their pets, lying about why they are doing so and allowing their pets to reproduce without a second thought. It can easily become a struggle to have faith in humanity. And besides, you are too busy, perhaps you’re at the point where you’ve begun to shut down, maybe you’ve already decided how you feel about this person in front of you or you could just be more interested in personal matters. No matter what the situation, it is easy to get pulled down by the negativity that you see every day. However, to best serve the animals in your care, you need to be mindful and strong enough to hold onto your empathy and patience.
There are some useful tricks for dealing with difficult people. If you can be mindful to not judge others too quickly, you may see the bigger picture and be pleasantly surprised. People generally size each other up and make judgments based on their appearance, ability to communicate and overall demeanor in just 10 second to 2 minutes. After that period, all encounters are viewed through this fogged lens. Before making these determinations, ask plenty of non-judgmental, open-ended questions. When someone says something along the lines of “the dog won’t be allowed on the furniture” it may simply be because they have already purchased 3 different dog beds, or perhaps even that they expect the dog to be on their lap. In all communications, watch your tone and inflection, volume, breathing and pace your rate of speech.
If you have an adopter who wants a pet who you believe is not the best fit, it is possible for you to gently get them to see the light. Studies have shown that nodding your head causes you to believe that a situation is positive. If you can get them to nod their head yes while you tell them about a pet that would be a better fit, your chance of them easily accepting this increases. You can start by saying “He is a beautiful dog” and right there they are nodding already. Instead of saying “I believe this dog has too much energy for your family” you could state it as “Did you know this dog will require at least 2 hours of exercise a day?” or “Did you know he just loves to dig holes?”. If the pet is a gift for someone else and you are not comfortable with that, you can suggest they purchase the items needed for the pet and use those items as the gift, then bring the recipient in to choose their own pet.
When answering the phone be sure to smile – it makes a substantial difference in your voice and the person on the other end of the phone hears that. Always answer the phone by the third ring and be sure to raise your energy by approximately 30%. When dealing with those difficult people, don’t take it personally. Give them the space they need to vent, but don’t suggest they calm down or the situation is almost guaranteed to get more tense. You might want to consider having a buddy on certain days. If you are emotionally drained, just let someone else know so they can take over for you if a situation occurs. Then you can return the favor when they have a rough day.
Excellent customer service is vital to the well-being of your adoptable pets. For more tips on customer service, sign up for the upcoming webinar on October 22 and check out our conference/webinar list for future events here.