Article Date: 11/1/2006

lessons learned
"But I'm Not"

Think very carefully before you speak!

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

A s the story goes, when the gentleman returned to his parked car, he discovered a huge dent in its side and a note under the windshield wiper.

"I accidentally ran into your car," read the note. "Many witnesses saw it. However, they also see me writing this note and leaving it on your windshield. They assume I am leaving you my name and address, so that you can contact me about my paying for repairs ... But I'm not."

This story illustrates a classic case of intentional miscommunication. Unfortunately, we have to put up with various other types of unintentional miscommunication as well.

BVI stands for what?!!

Sometimes the words folks say just don't come out right. In his book, Honest, Officer, the Midget was on Fire When I Got Here, Georgia broadcaster Ludlow Porch writes of the difficulties small radio stations often have when they must depend on inexperienced high school students as part-time announcers.

"This message was brought to you by the Better Vision Institute," was the message one of these neophytes meant to deliver, according to Mr. Porch. But what he came out with was, "This message was brought to you by the Better Virgins Institute."

His second example was of a young announcer reading the obituary column. "Today we pay reverence to the memory of ..." he began. He then was horrified to discover there were no names on the list. So he ad-libbed, "We regret to announce no one died this week."

Who added 'glau' to 'coma'?

You'd better be careful in conversing with children since their shorter experiential background make them more prone to misunderstanding. Canton, Ohio's Dr. Sheri Miller shared this example: 

"A ten-year-old boy was a patient in my office, and acted very mature, wanting to answer all of the questions himself with no help from Mom. During the case history I asked if there was any history of glaucoma in the family. He leaned close in to me and whispered, "If there ever was anyone in a coma, they are not in existence now."

Quick thinking?

If you're not honest in your patient communications, it'll catch up with you in the long run. I may have recounted before the story of a veterinarian friend who learned this the hard way.

His office had had an extremely busy afternoon, and it was after 6:30p.m. before they finished with the last appointment. The other office personnel had left, when the phone rang as he was going out the door. Thinking it might be his wife asking why he was late, he answered the phone, saying "Batson Animal Clinic."

"Oh, Dr. Batson, I'm so glad that you're still there," said the voice on the other end of the line. He recognized it as that of a lady who was a motor mouth. He realized that she was probably going to keep him in conversation for a long time while she asked advice about her poodle, or even worse insist that he stay there while she brought the dog in. He mentally processed all this information plus the solution in little more than a second's time, so that almost immediately after saying, "Batson Animal Clinic," he smoothly proceeded, "This is a recording. Please call the office tomorrow morning."

He relaxed back in his chair, congratulating himself on his quick thinking, when he heard the lady say, "What?" Without thinking he answered, "I said, 'this is a recording. Please call the office tomorrow morning.'"

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



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2006