Prejudice is a funny thing. The word itself provokes a prejudiced response: either “I’m not prejudiced”, or otherwise invoking negative connotations.
I am using here the meaning of prejudice as something along the lines of “a preconceived preference or idea” rather than as a euphemism for racism or something else as ugly. There are as many definitions as there are dictionaries.
We all have prejudices – they are normal “shortcuts” our mind and brain make to save time. The trick in not falling foul of them is to be aware of them.
I see and hear prejudice every day in my job. Judgements can be made on the appearance of an owner or client, and in their manner when talking to you. It is often based at least partly on experience and word-of-mouth as much as our own personal reactions.
For example, a client driving an expensive luxury car doesn’t necessarily have £800 to spend on intestinal surgery with all the trimmings. Equally I cannot count the number of times the most down-at-heel client has been able to fund “the works” for their dog, cat, rabbit or budgie.
We need to try to approach each and every client in the same way each and every time, and try not to make assumptions when doing so. Give them all the options. Explain all the risks and benefits appropriate each and every time.
I have had many doctors, consultants, GPs, professors, dentists, barristers and, at one time, a solicitor who had a special interest in medical negligence, as regular clients. Early on in my career my prejudice shouted “RUN!” in my head.
But with the benefit of experience I can see I was very wrong. These are the more stimulating and rewarding clients to have because they bring a lot “to the table” – not just their own knowledge, but also a heck of a lot of respect for what we do and can do. Cater to them in numbers (in one previous life every other client seemed either to be a consultant at the local hospital or a professional footballer) and you have not only a challenging client base, but also a validation of our skills.
Prejudice takes many forms, and we all probably have our prejudices about the people we meet and the situations we find ourselves in. We can’t really avoid it, but it’s important to be aware of it.