Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Selective Listening

A client phoned me today and complained that she recently spent over $2000 for removal of asbestos ceiling in the house she bought 10 months ago, which I inspected and produced with a report.

She claimed that I told her that asbestos ceiling was fine. She listened to me and suffered loss. We did not counter argue but asked to go back and review the report before having further discussion.

We then found clear wording in our report:
“Texture coated ceiling may contain asbestos. Refer expert for further opinion. Do not brake the texture ceiling coating without protection.”

I do not think she intentionally took the chance and blamed me for misleading or negligent, but why she felt that she got misled when we clearly mentioned asbestos ceiling in the report? The problem must be related with our onsite verbal consultation.

Most client ordered inspections in a situation when they faced critical lifetime decision making. Most client ordered inspections because they loved a house. Like normal human being, they would selectively listen to our inspection outcomes. Even though they tried to memorise our conversions as much as they could, they would naturally remember the information which is pleased for them, i.e. positive information and make their own summary. “You mean the house is not leaking?” “So there are no major issues” such selective summaries out from client’s selective listening are familiar to most inspectors.  

I would clearly mention about cost involved with asbestos removal, potential danger to contractors dealing with it and potential harm to occupants exposed to unprotected asbestos. However, she only remembered information such as “as long as protected and remaining undisturbed asbestos ceiling will have no adverse effect to occupants health and safety”. She likely even further selectively listened and summed as “asbestos ceiling will have no adverse effect to occupants”.

There is no doubt that onsite verbal consultation is extremely important for clients to efficiently and clearly understand our inspection reports, verbal consultation must be accompanied by properly drafted written report. 

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