Powered by:

Podcast Excerpt Yields Definition and Thoughts on Empathy

Recently while I was listening to a new episode of the Studies in Empathy podcast, an excerpt caught my attention and I wanted to share my feelings on why it resonated with me.  In the episode with guest Laura Cooley, Ph.D. entitled, “Beware of Shiny Objects in Patient Experience” she said something that for me, is an exceptional definition of empathy as well as the essential role it plays in Respond with H.E.AR.T. ®

Laura said:

“…perhaps empathy is simplistically defined as feeling what somebody else feels. That’s actually not what we’re talking about in patient experience. Yes, maybe we want you to imagine what someone else is experiencing or how they might be suffering or perceiving things. What we really want is for you to act in a way as if you recognize that and that’s when we can get to the heart of expressing ourselves so that someone else knows we do value them as a human being, that’s respect.

We are listening and responding in a way that says, “I heard you. That sounds challenging. Here’s what I can try to do to help.” It’s not about feeling somebody else’s stuff, it’s about reacting and responding in a way so that they are respected and heard and cared for as a human being. That applies to patients and our colleagues. I think we’ve got to stay focused on what we really mean. When you’re talking about responding with empathy, not just being empathic.”

Even though we are all committed to the behaviors espoused in Respond with H.E.A.R.T.  and practice them on an ongoing basis, there may be times when we feel like we’re going through the motions.  Perhaps the next time you find yourself in one of those phases, conjure up this definition for a reminder of what empathy can do!

Submitted by Jennifer Muehle, Program Manager/ The Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, Cleveland Clinic