At times when you want to get something, but getting that something involves doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing, what should you do? That’s pretty much the question a reader we’re calling Bri wants to know.
Bri has chronic back pain. For about 30 years, she has paid regular visits to the same chiropractor. Bri wrote that her sessions with her chiropractor offered relief from back pain. At first Bri visited the chiropractor weekly, but as time went on and she was able to manage the pain better, the sessions became monthly.
About three years ago, Bri’s chiropractor died after a brief illness. Bri wrote that she was devastated at the news, not just because of how good a practitioner she found him to be but because she got to know him over the years and truly liked him. Her chiropractor’s wife managed his office, and his daughter often worked the reception desk when she was on breaks from school. Bri wrote that she didn’t know how she would ever be able to find a replacement for her chiropractor.
Her concern has turned out to be as challenging as she worried it would be. Over the past three years, she has tried working with four different chiropractors, but none used an approach that was similar to her former chiropractor’s. She also had the sense that the chiropractors she tried were mostly trying to fit in as many patients as possible, so she often felt her sessions were rushed. What concerned her more is none resulted in the same kind of pain relief she had experienced working with her former chiropractor.
“I know that he probably knew others who practiced similarly to him,” Bri wrote. “But sadly, he’s not around to ask.”
But Bri also suspects her former chiropractor’s widow would likely be able to recommend other practitioners with a similar approach.
“I don’t feel comfortable asking her for recommendations,” Bri wrote. “It seems unseemly given that I’d be asking her about a replacement for her dead husband.” But Bri is at her wits' end and wanted to know if it indeed would be wrong to contact her former chiropractor’s widow for a recommendation.
It may make Bri feel uncomfortable to make such a request, but there is absolutely nothing unseemly about doing so. She would be wise to avoid broaching the subject by asking about “a replacement for your dead husband,” but instead she can remind the widow how good she found her chiropractor to be and was hoping she might be able to recommend someone who possibly could come close to using a similar approach.
While I can understand that Bri doesn’t want to make it sound like the only downside to her chiropractor’s death was her loss of him as a practitioner, she might find that his widow would actually appreciate being reminded of how valued he was by his patients when he was alive.
If Bri wants a reference and believes her former chiropractor’s widow might provide, the right thing to do is to ask her.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.