Article Date: 2/1/2010

Life Isn't Always Fair
lessons learned

Life Isn't Always Fair

The Lord gives us a proper division between compliments and complaints.

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

“The reason I've come to see you for my eye exam is because you were my mother's optometrist a number of years ago,” a lady once told me. “You did such a good job on her that, before she died, she got to where she could read without her glasses!”

When I was younger, I would have felt that it was intellectually and ethically dishonest to let this woman think it was my skill, rather than incipient cataracts, that had restored her mother's reading vision. And I probably would have thoroughly bored her with a 10-minute explanation of the “second sight” phenomenon.

But having mellowed with age, I found myself realizing that things often balance out. I'd caught plenty of hell from patients for things I really hadn't done wrong, so I decided I wasn't going to protest too vigorously this undeserved credit.

So I just smiled modestly, and with great humility suggested that her mother's reading vision might possibly have returned even without my exceptional clinical skill.

Lord's wisdom

Anyway, this recollection got me to thinking about how the Lord in His (Her?) wisdom seems to give us a proper division between compliments and complaints. If you got nothing but compliments on your work, you'd have a tendency to get too cocky, and possibly less careful in what you do. If you got nothing but complaints, you'd lose all self-confidence, which would have an even more adverse effect on your work.


ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

The hardest thing I had to learn when I was in practice was not to take patient complaints too personally.

“Mrs. Hardy is coming in at 3:30,” my receptionist would tell me. “She says she's having a problem with her new glasses.”

Ruined the day

“I told her she needed progressive add lenses, but she wouldn't listen to me,” I'd unnecessarily grumble to myself. “Now she's coming back to gripe about not seeing right, and blaming me for it.” During the day, I'd find myself getting upset and even picturing a possible argument.

“The new glasses are great,” she'd say when 3:30 finally arrived. “The only problem is that they seem a little tight on my left ear.”

I also discovered that some patients like to grumble even when they're not particularly unhappy.

“I wish you were still in practice,” a bank president's wife told me when I ran into her at the grocery store. “I can't find anyone who can fix my eyes as good as you always did.”

“But you complained constantly about everything we did!” I told her.

“I know,” she said laughing. “I'm just the type person who fusses about everything.”

Why didn't she tell me that back then, and saved me a little agony?

The best?

“I think it would be best if you went to another eye doctor,” another O.D. once told a lady who seemed to have one objection after another, no matter what he did.

“Oh no,” she replied. “I could never do that. You're the best eye doctor I've ever had!”

So I gradually learned that you shouldn't let the gripes, criticisms, and worries throw you. And I also learned to appreciate the fact that unfair complaints you receive are often balanced by undeserved compliments. OM


JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@COMCAST.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: February 2010