Article Date: 10/1/2006

lessons learned
The Pig and the Redneck

It can seem like the odds are stacked against communicating clearly.


Pig! Pig!" the lady yelled at an Alabama State Trooper as he drove by. . "Redneck! Redneck!" the trooper yelled back, highly incensed over being called a "pig." With his attention thus diverted, he wrecked his car when he ran into a large pig in the middle of the road.

As we discussed in last month's exciting episode, making certain your audience understands the message you're trying to get across is not always easy. Patients and co-workers have a multitude of opportunities to misunderstand you. Let me count the ways ...

Answer to a prayer?

There are too many dual meanings involved in the English language. You may think you're delivering one message, and the recipient understands an entirely different one — as in the story about the preacher who was concerned about the morals of a young lady in his congregation.   

"I want you to know I prayed for you three times last night," the preacher told her.

"That wasn't necessary, Preacher," she coyly replied. "All you had to do was phone and I'd have come right over."

Joe DiPasqua, O.D., of Greenville, Va., witnessed another example in his office. As his patient (Thelma) left the exam room, another patient (Diane) who was dilating, said, "How are you Thelma?"

"I'm sorry I didn't say 'hi' earlier, but I didn't recognize you with your clothes on," replied Thelma. When she noted the questioning looks on the faces of the other folks in the reception area and realized what she had said, she hurriedly explained that she and Diane took water aerobics together.

Too much

We must also be careful not to over communicate. Iowa dentist Dr. Duane Schmidt used to give practice management lectures at OptiFair meetings. One of the stories he told:

"The brand we burn on our cattle is a C inside an O," a Texas rancher told a fellow rancher. "What brand do you put on yours?"

"The Amalgamated Bryan, Owens and Farquardt Ranch of Central Texas, Inc.," he replied.

"How many cattle do you have?"

"Not many. Very few seem to survive being branded."

And sometimes, people don't really want as much information as we give them. "Exactly what is astigmatism?" a friend once asked me. He was a graduate engineer, so I gave him a five-minute, detailed explanation. When I finished, he said, "I'm kind of sorry I asked. I didn't want to know all that much about it!"

To the point

It's also often best to come to the point in patient communication and not beat around the bush. Another optometrist told me of an occasion when his secretary wrote a note on a patient's statement, which read, "We are surprised that we have received no payment on this account."

"No need to be surprised," the patient wrote back. "The reason you haven't received a payment is that I ain't sent any."

Sometimes the answers you receive are right clever and help lighten up the day. Gilbert James, O.D., of Adairsville, Ga., told me about asking a patient his age.

"I'm at the difficult age of 62," he replied. "Too young for 'medicare,' too old for 'her to care.'"


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2006