By Barbara Bird
Originally written in 2008 for her GroomWise.com Blog, and now archived here in Resources. Barbara's web site is www.bbird.biz
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Copyright 2011 Barbara Bird All rights reserved
Conversation among groomers frequently lands on the topic of client lies. To hear us talk, clients are a bunch of liars, telling untruths about how long it's been since Fluffy was last groomed, how often they brush, when mats appeared, the cost of their previous grooming, excuses for missed appointments and any number of things.
The truth is clients are humans and humans lie. Not just some, but most people lie. In a study at the University of Virginia, Dr. Bella DePaulo found that most subjects lied once or twice a day. Why do people lie? People lie to avoid punishment, confrontation, shame, or loss of self-esteem. They lie for financial gain or to make themselves look better. People are more likely to lie in real time than when they have time to think through a response. A very common reason for lying is to spare someone's feelings. People are most likely to lie when put on the spot, "Do you like this dress?"
There are some individuals who are more avid liars than others. Some people lie at the drop of a hat, others lie only in extreme circumstances. My own mother was a fluent liar. It was her mechanism of managing the family, especially when feelings were at stake. When lying becomes a survival mechanism that works in one situation, it often spreads to other situations as well. A person who lies at home will lie at work.
People who have less power in a given relationship are more likely to lie than persons with power, children to parents, wives to husbands, employees to employers. Persons with power will lie to avoid losing that power. People will also lie if they feel they have been lied to. Any way you look at it, lying begets more lying. One lie leads to another. It can become a vicious cycle between persons, or it can become a lifestyle. Lying destroys trust and ruins relationships. It also destroys the ability to trust others. A person who chronically lies is less likely to believe that someone else is telling the truth. A person who is chronically lied to is less likely to trust the next person.
What does this information have to do with us as pet groomers, i.e. service providers?
We can expect some lying. Our customers are often wanting to save face, avoid consequences, look like good pet owners, avoid our judgment, and sometimes spare our feelings.
The more we take things personally, the more we will be lied to...to spare our feelings. And people who themselves take things personally are more likely to assume that you do also. Pet grooming is a very personal work, and some groomers invest a lot of themselves in their work. But if clients think that you will take it personally if they don't like a style, or have a problem with a product that was used, they are more likely to not tell you, or lie to you about it, and eventually may just disappear.
The more judgmental we are, the more we will be lied to.... to avoid loss of self esteem. If we practice not judging our customers, responding with compassion and understanding, and not taking their actions personally or being too tender, we will be lied to less. If we create an atmosphere where our clients feel good about themselves as pet owners, we establish a margin of self-esteem that can withstand some challenge once in awhile. If we are forgiving, and apply consequences such as extra charges fairly and without a lot of drama, we will be lied to less. If we reward people for telling the truth, by praising their honesty, and expressing appreciation, we will have less lying.
By our own willingness to tell the truth in difficult circumstances, such as messing up an appointment in the book, or failing to communicate clearly about something, we will encourage others to do the same. We cannot eliminate all lies, but we can reduce them by practicing the art of compassion. It takes practice. When we hear that ancient excuse about "overnight matting" in spite of "daily brushing", instead of rolling our eyes and saying "That's impossible!", we can say something like: "Doesn't it just seem like they are fine one day and a mess the next?" "Thanks for bringing him in, now let's see what we can do and how much it's going to cost." Once we remove the guilt and shame, the client is more likely to listen to our explanation of how hair mats from the inside out and how owners often brush from the outside in...blah blah. By being good natured and forgiving, while managing consequences clearly and fairly, the groomer can establish a business that is a "zone of compassion". People will want to return to a relationship where they feel good about themselves and where it easier to tell the truth.
Kornet, Allison, “The Truth About Lying”, Psychology Today, May/June 1997.
Komp, Diane, “Anatomy of a Lie”, Zondervan Pub. House, 1998
Excerpted from: Barbara Bird, "It's Not JUST the Grooming - Communication Skills for Pet Professionals",Second Edition, 2006, Birdzeye Press. All copyrights apply.