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As a neurologist and chief experience officer at Cleveland Clinic, one of the most powerful things you can do for people is to ask about insights and feelings, reflect what you hear back to them, and then do something about it. I call this concept “empathy operationalized.” Although I view this issue through a healthcare lens, the reflections are universal. Ultimately, soliciting and applying someone’s feedback is fundamental to making that person feel seen and valued.
Many people who choose careers in medicine or at nonprofits are intrinsically motivated to serve others. And yet most of us haven’t received any training to hone our ability to empathize; we just do our best. If we expect every healthcare professional to empathize with every patient, we must provide training.
Working in hospitals is tremendously stressful: Doctors-in-training have to learn to work on a team, document their actions extensively, take on sleep-depriving schedules, and begin to take responsibility for the health of their patients.
In healthcare, reflective listening and empathy can lead to behavior change, fewer malpractice claims, and less burnout–that feeling you get when your emotional bucket is empty and it’s hard to keep going.
Fascinatingly, listening and empathy may be doctors’ greatest tools in reducing financial, physical, and emotional harm. If you look at why people file malpractice claims, the number-one cause isn’t inappropriate medical management, but a lack of human connection.
Even in human-centered fields like medicine, social services, and development work, we often think that skills like reflective listening and empathy are soft, fluffy, and optional. The truth is, they are the only skills that can make another human feel cared for and connected—they just take some intentional practice.
Read the full article about listening by Dr. Adrienne Boissy at Stanford Social Innovation Review.