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If we are not in control of our nonverbal skills, or if they are in direct conflict with our verbal message, then we cannot be sure exactly what we are communicating to our clients.

communicate as we all can. As dog trainers and behavior consultants, we can ensure that, just by the way we communicate, we can impact the lives of the hundreds of pets we cross paths with every year. I believe communication is our most powerful ally. It is our trump card and a tool in our kit that needs to be on permanent standby, fully flexed and ready to go. If we are not prepared and do not have our ally alongside us, then we will not be able to have meaningful, engaging and impactful communication with our clients. As a result, we will never be able to effectively communicate our philosophy, goals and ideas. This lack of shared meaning forms the crux of many of the problems that manifest themselves as client lack of commitment, compliance and understanding. This means the main avenue to success in our training programs is improving and then implementing our communication skills.

To Influence We Must First Understand

When pet professionals speak to clients, how they say things can be just as important as what they actually say

Effective communication is our trump card and a tool in our kit that needs to be on permanent standby, fully flexed and ready to go.

© Can Stock Photo/cynoclub

We must engage with our clients so we can understand their experiences and needs. By taking the opportunity to communicate with confidence, we have the ability to influence, persuade and make an impact regarding the training and care of their pets. Positive communication breeds self-confidence, credibility and professional effectiveness. It explains the relevant points and filters out the polite but unnecessary fillers. Our aim should be to provide clients with the bare bones, the ideas, thoughts and opinions that make sense to them while promoting our best intentions. How we say things can be just as important as what we say. By changing the intonation of our voices we can inject emotions into our messages and make them sound up- or downbeat. We can also modify our tones to help identify the purpose of a sentence. If we are asking a question, for example, the intonation would obviously be different than if we are making a statement. By changing which words or syllables we emphasize we can change the entire meaning of our message. The speed of speech and the use of appropriate pauses can actually change the meaning of the words spoken. We can also affect the clarity and effectiveness of our communication by altering the tempo of our speech. If we talk too quickly, it can be difficult for people to engage in a conversation and they may have problems deciphering what we say. If we speak too slowly, however, it risks inciting boredom. Our goal should be to set the pace at a tempo that is appropriate for our audience. In terms of volume we should keep it to a moderate level. If we speak too softly it can indicate a lack of confidence and conviction in what we are trying to communicate. If we speak too loudly it may indicate anger or impatience. We do not have to have participated in formal elocution lessons to be able to articulate and enunciate words correctly. We can, however, make sure we pronounce words in a way that is generally accepted or understood. It is worth taking the time to develop one’s pronunciation and enunciation skills. This will ensure that we are accurately understood, particularly for those of us who like to cite industry nomenclature or scientific research. Communication includes body language in addition to what we express verbally. As dog training and behavior consultants, we know how important physical communication is. We rely on it every day to communicate with our pets. In some cases, what we do not say can send a louder message than what we do say. Body language, voice intonation and the use of silence can be very powerful in communicating our message but we need to be sure it is the right message. If we are not in control of our nonverbal skills or if they are in direct conflict with our verbal message, then we cannot be sure exactly what we are communicating to our clients. Body language refers to posture, facial expressions, gestures and movements, all of which convey their own messages. Research into the human brain shows that emotions are manifested first in our body language, before the rational brain catches up nanoseconds later. Thus, if we are impatient or angry, our body language will reflect this before we have the chance to put words into action. Learning to read clients’ body language is a useful skill which will help us understand their intents, if not their specific thoughts. At the very least, inconsistencies between verbal and nonverbal communication can result in much confusion. As one who continuously asks herself, “What could I have done better?” I have to believe that, if I avail myself of these important communication tools, I can make great strides in my ability to

BUSINESS

While we do not have the power to control other people, we can always do our best to persuade them. If we wish to influence our clients we must first set aside our points of view and look at the situation from their perspective. We cannot assume that because a philosophy or principle is clear to us that it is clear to the client. If we can answer, “What is in it for me?” on the client’s behalf, then we are halfway there. This will help us understand what is important to clients in terms of their values, interests and preferences. If we build bridges with our clients, then we will better understand them and make greater headway on building up our credibility and trust. This translates to finding common BARKS from the Guild/March 2017

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BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...

BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...