Empathy: The HEART of the Practice

Ever worked with someone who, upon hearing a misfortune that you just experienced, reacted by saying, “You’ll get over it, move on.” Or, “Life sucks, nothing you can do about it.” Or, “Really! You DO have a lot bad things happen to you, don’t you?”

You could say that this person has “no heart.” Clearly, they do not know the meaning of empathy! Basically, empathy has been described as the ability to relate to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of another person.

It does not mean sugary, syrupy sympathy which is rejected as “overdone” caring. Nor giving someone pity, also undesirable “care.” Someone described empathy as “the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and be aware of their feelings and needs.” Let’s add, “and let the person know that you have understood.”

Whether you are dealing with a client, patient or a fellow member of your team, showing empathy requires that you really listen attentively to what the person is saying and put your complete focus on them. Put yourself in their shoes while you listen. If it is a patient or client, once you have completely understood their communication, you can then answer it or deal with it in a caring fashion.

With your staff or fellow team members, empathy shows a deep respect and care level. Sometimes all one needs is the feeling that someone has heard them, and then a really good strong acknowledgement to let them know they HAVE been heard. “Wow, I really GOT that.” Once you have understood the whole picture, to be effective and helpful, you could then get the person to envision what they could do to handle the situation and focus them on being solution oriented, instead of being stuck in the problem.

Smooth, productive patient dealings and management of an office result from the empathy levels of the practice.

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