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by Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
Originally published on DrAndyRoark.com

I’m from the south. I was born in Kenner, Louisiana and spent the first 9 years of my life immersed in southern hospitality.

My parents kept up their southern traditions when we moved to Florida. I still have trouble calling someone by their first name if they are my parents’ age or older. Seven years at Mississippi State University were the icing on the cake.  I fell easily into my southern manners and made “y’all” a permanent part of my vocabulary.

When I was working in private practice, my habit of saying “thank you” was frequently noted by my coworkers. My colleagues mentioned how nice it was to be thanked when handing me something, calling a client for me or when I left at the end of the day.  I was taken aback the first few times it was mentioned as an oddity. Doesn’t everyone say “thank you” all the time? Apparently not.

I’ve started paying more attention to how people at work and out in public speak to each other, and I’m appalled, y’all!

A little bit of kindness and respect goes a LONG way. I’m going to share with you my five go-to phrases that bring some positivity into my daily life. Most of us were taught these five words as children. Let’s bring them back and see if we can create a culture of respect in our practices!

1. Please

Put this in front of whatever you’re asking, even if you’re not technically asking. “Would you please call Mrs. Smith and let her know Tiger’s blood results are all normal?” Yes, you expect this to be done, but there’s no reason you can’t ask respectfully. If you say “please” to another veterinarian but bark at your staff, they see it, and they lose respect for you.

2. Thank you

It’s such a simple thing. Two little words to let someone know you appreciate what they’ve done. If you don’t already thank your staff at the end of the day, try it for two weeks. “Hey, thanks everyone – you did a great job today!”.  I’m betting you’ll notice an increase in morale and helpfulness pretty quickly.

3. No, thank you

If someone took the time to track you down and ask you if you’d like to order lunch, the least you can do is thank them for offering. Plus, there’s a bonus of practicing using the word “no,” which we all need to say more often!

4. Excuse me

I’ve been told to “MOVE!” more times than I can count, both inside and outside the clinic. Being elbowed aside and told to get out of the way is insulting. “Excuse me” may have two more syllables to contend with, but the person hearing it isn’t likely to wish you’d stand up quickly and bang your head on a cage door.

5. I’m sorry

If all else fails and you end up treating someone badly, seek them out when things have calmed down and apologize. When I apologize, the staff usually laughs at me. They didn’t notice I was being snotty, but I know when I’m being impolite or unkind. Most mature professionals understand that things said in the heat of the moment weren’t personal. Hearing you say it lets them know you respect them and don’t want to upset them.

These phrases may not create huge changes in your life, but I guarantee you the difference will be noticeable. Obviously, if there’s an emergency, all bets are off, but most of the time when our colleagues are rude, it’s laziness and not panic that is to blame. Making the effort to be kind shows the people around you that you respect them.

Keep in mind as well that clients are watching everything you say and do. If you treat your colleagues disrespectfully, how are you treating their pet behind closed doors? I’ve had clients remark to me in private that they couldn’t believe people actually thought it was ok to speak to someone that way.

And speaking of clients, make sure that you take the time to let them know they are appreciated. If there’s a client who makes your day better just by showing up, say it out loud.  Be sure you acknowledge that they are special and that they mean the world to you and your fellow staff members.

Are there things you say that make the day better? Has a colleague said something to you that lifted you up? Share with us!