Some time ago, a highly controversial (and very unpopular) opinion was shared with my class. I won’t get into the specifics of what was said, but it was definitely something most would consider a hot issue within the realm of veterinary medicine.
Needless to say, it didn’t sit well with a lot of people. That’s not to comment on whether people were right or wrong in their thoughts as I didn’t agree with it either, but it brought up an interesting point that I believe we as professionals should keep in mind.
A significant portion of our future careers will be spent talking to people. Answering questions, making recommendations, outlining treatment plans; you name it, vets do it! Unfortunately, along with this territory comes the fact that we will likely be engaging with people who have unfavorable, and maybe even radical, opinions when it comes to animals and animal care. So what do you do?
Here’s how I like to think about it: In most cases, something happened that led a person into their frame of thought on a particular topic. Maybe they have first-hand experience, maybe they read case studies. Perhaps they watched a documentary or they’re active in online communities. People are formed by their day-to-day experiences, and a lot of what we think opinion-wise relies on various forms of experience. Bearing that in mind, I try not to completely discount or dismiss the opinions of others, even if they’re on the polar opposite spectrum of my opinion (as was the case this time).
I think the key in these situations is to try and keep your cool. As I’m typing this, I realize this is significantly easier said than done, because we all have that one topic that really gets our blood boiling! However, these moments of disagreement can turn into teachable (and learnable) moments, because they open an avenue for dialogue. This dialogue becomes much more possible if we, as professionals, come from a place of calm and a desire to understand than from a more combative frame of mind. Again, as I stated before, this is WAY easier said than done, but imagine what could occur because of these opportunities for dialogue?
Admittedly, I may be thinking a little too idealistically about the situation. But the way I see it, veterinarians come from all backgrounds and all walks of life and have all differing opinions. One thought process may be (and in some cases, definitely will be) less savory than the next, but I don’t believe it necessarily negates the opinion or the person who has it. These differences, even the aggravating ones, are what make veterinary medicine such a worthwhile field.