Answer the question.
A veterinarian's precision communication softens the blow of euthanasia.
A few days ago, Randy and I made the painful decision to euthanize our beloved 12 year-old Boxer, Silk. She was diagnosed in the Spring with lymphatic cancer and, after five months of chemotherapy, she lost the battle. Making the decision to euthanize her was agonizing for us because, other than a growing tumor that was beginning to restrict her airway, she was in every way "herself." But when the vet told us that she was 24 hours away from great suffering, we decided to end her life that day. We were (and still are) heartbroken.
As we came to our decision, we were full of questions: Could she have just one more good day or week? Would the last chemo drug suddenly start to reduce the tumor? Will she feel betrayed? Will we be able to forgive ourselves? At the core of all our questions was just one, though: are we doing the right thing? And it was exactly that question that our vet heard and answered through our tears, in the moments before she injected the fatal drugs. "Don't you ever feel that you have made a bad decision," she said, "this is the right and selfless thing for you to do."
In media trainings, I tell clients that if you don't answer a question, it will be repeated until you do. (You've seen this every time a politician slips around a question and bridges to a pre-fab message point that has nothing to do with the question.) Excellent communicators, like our vet, not only answer questions, they recognize them.