Everybody likes to have hope. It could be hope that a check engine light goes off on the next key cycle, or you will never lose someone you love. But in some cases, a little bit of hope can be more painful than a dose of honesty and experience.
Last month, I spent a week in a hospice ward learning a valuable lesson. My mom had been fighting liver cancer and she took a turn for the worse. Hospice can be a strange place. Almost every family had a member holding out hope that every twitch or change in vitals is a sign that their family member might be on the mend and can soon come home. Some family members would demand tests and procedures to avoid the reality of losing a loved one.
Tests and procedures might have been the path of least resistance for the doctors to satisfy the living. But, results from tests and procedures can offer hope or pain, but rarely both in equal portions. What the doctors in hospice taught me was that honesty and experience can offer more comfort than hope.
I confess, I have done it myself. Often, I would clear out an EVAP code in the parking lot and tell the owner it might be loose gas cap that caused the code. But, the reality is that no matter how many times they crank down the gas cap, the EVAP code is coming back due to a rusted filler neck or cracked charcoal canister. I just turned the light off for now and did not solve the problem.
The nurses and doctors in the hospice ward never gave our family false hope or made estimates on how long my mother might have. Every question was answered honestly and was well explained. It was never argumentative or dismissive. I think this same method used in hospice applies to automotive repair.
Sometimes during my time behind the service counter I avoided recommending difficult or expensive repairs fearing the customer might not react well to the tough diagnosis or price. Often, I thought I was doing the right thing for the customer by hoping the P0420 code was the oxygen sensor and not catalytic converter that was being slowly poisoned by a leaking head gasket.
I might have saved them some money now hoping that the check engine light might stay off. But, the customer would be back with the same problem even angrier than before.
It is hard to put yourself on the other side of the counter or bed. Seeing things from the customer’s or patient’s perspective is critical for anybody working with the public. A doctor would never wish a patient had a fatal disease and a technician would never wish for a car to have a problem that could cost the owner thousands, but it happens every day. The most powerful medicine for people and cars is honesty, education and spending time explaining a repair, procedure or outcome.