What can vets learn from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?

You remember King Arthur, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, Excalibur and the Knights of the Round Table don’t you Michele?
Aside from the ‘childhood’ lessons on morality and Right is Might, there is one other really POWERFUL lesson (about communicating with our clients) which we can learn.

Watch the 5 min video, read the transcript or listen to the podcast….
And then make sure you apply this lesson in your practice (with your entire team)


Click Here to listen to the Podcast


Hi, it’s Diederik Gelderman here. Welcome to Week Three in our Month of Better Communication.

Today we’re going to talk about The Knights of the Round Table. 

Yep, that’s The Knights of the round Table; Excalibur, King Arthur, Lancelot, all those sorts of thing. 

Probably, you’re thinking “Diederik, you’ve gone nuts, what’s this got to do with vet?” 

Well, it’s got a lot to do with vet actually. There were studies done over the last five years into what sort of table allows for the best communication, and was the Knights of the Round Table table really round, and if it was round, why was it round. Why wasn’t it square, or rectangular or oval or something like that? 

  • So, anyway, there’s lots of studies on this, and I’ll summarize them quite briefly. 

When a table is square or rectangular and when participants communicate across a table, when the two parties or the two groups or whatever are interviewed or examined or whatever term you want to use, at the end communication, at the end of the ‘event’, at the end of the 15 minutes or the hour or how-ever long the conversation went for, they remember one third less of what happened than when the communication was around a round table. I hope that makes sense, it’s a little bit hard to explain.

Let me rephrase – When people communicate across a square or a rectangular table, there is a one third loss of information between the two parties

  • So, if I’m the vet and my client is here (on the other side of this square or rectangular table) and I’m trying to communicate something to them about a skin problem or a cruciate repair, about a pancreatitis case or whatever it happens to be, if I communicate across a square table versus standing next to them or beside them or communicating across a round or oval table, then there is one third less understanding by them of the information that we have shared. 

Can you / I afford to give the client one-third less information? Will they still be as likely to make the ‘right’ decision??

Most likely NO.

I hope that makes sense because I remember my consultations in my practice, all my exam room tables were rectangular, and typically, we’d stand on one side and the client would stand on the other side. 

When I think back to those day I think “My golly gosh, these clients remembered one third less than I wanted them to and needed them to,” which is just crazy.

Let’s share some strategies to ameliorate that effect. 

It’s probably very, very unrealistic to throw all your old rectangular tables out and put round tables in.  and what’s more, round tables – they’re going to look a little bit hokey anyway, so that’s out. 

One definite thing that you can do to ameliorate that effect is to actually stand on the same side of the table as the client. 

So, if this is the table here, you’d both stand there. 

Or, if the table is rectangular, stand across the edges of the table, so rather than standing directly across from them, stand across the edges from, because standing across the edges is more like “We’re on the same side,” and that loss of information doesn’t occur. 

The more complex the matter that you’re discussing or talking with the client about, the more that loss of information comes into play. 

This is a really, really important piece of information (that we’ve shared today) and there is also a really, really simple fix. 

I’m going to suggest that you share this information with all your veterinarians and get them to stand on the same side as the client, or at least across the angle. 

Also get your receptionists and nurses not to use the reception counter and other tables as barriers. Ensure that they come out from behind any table or counter that’s between them and the client

And, before I move on, I’ve had quite a few emails and phone calls about what we talked about in the previous two weeks. 

Emails and phone calls saying “How do I learn more about this, or can you help me implement some of these strategies in my practice,” or whatever. 

If what we’ve talked about in the last two weeks and today, and what we will talk about next week, the final of these four weeks, if you’re interested in learning more about that and implementing it at a deeper level in your practice, please, let me know and I’m only too happy to share some more information on Skype, or give you some strategies on the phone or whatever it happens to be. 

I’m really happy to help you out and go deeper on this with you. We’ve only just skimmed the surface here.

And, at the end of the day, if you want me to come in and do a total staff training on this material with your team members, and we can all practice and rehearse and role play as well, I’m only too happy to do that as well. 

I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.

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