Why having empathy as a doctor or business person is so important to our business vitality

By Michelle Davis

What is empathy?

The dictionary definition brings it right to the point that it is the „ability to understand and share the feelings of another “. I would describe it like a deep willingness to understand and focus on your patient or client (also a business partner, coachee and/or life-partner) by listening carefully to that what this person is telling you.

Why is it so important to listen to what your patient or client tells you besides his physical or business symptoms?

Once an elderly professor at our university told us, young pre-medical students, this: “Make a good anamnesis – ask about the medical history, social history, and current life situation – take the time and listen carefully what the patient is telling you because 80 % of the anamnesis is the diagnosis.

Already back then I was resonating with that because I had those experiences with doctors, before and after I became a medical doctor myself, who didn’t really listen nor doing a physical examination. Just recently I experienced this – „Oh you have a cold – take antibiotics “and I just asked: „don’t you want to examine my lungs, my throat and make a test if it is really a bacterial cause? The answer was: „No when you have green mucus it is clearly bacterial “(ancient belief). Just when I told that doctor, I am a doctor myself this doctor started to change his attitude and finally examined me and took a sample – no bacteria – it was a virus! (most of the time antibiotics are not needed!).

This was not out of empathy and listening carefully it was out of fear because I was a doctor myself. I felt not taken serious by that doctor who just assumed something. I told myself – already during my studies – I don’t want to be an “assembly-line” (just fast symptom treating) doctor myself and till now I look for the root cause and look outside the box to find the optimal individual solution to better the vitality of my patients.

Even though I was accused quite often of being the slow doctor when I was working in surgery I always responded: I am not slow, I am precise and often I prevented patients from extra harm. For example, one patient told me he had severe skin healing problems after a hip replacement and his surgeons didn’t take him seriously. They told him he was a hypochondriac. He was supposed to get a shoulder prosthesis at our clinic. When I looked at his hip area the skin was still strangely purple and I instantly had the suspicion of a metal allergy and cancelled the operation! My boss almost yelled at me and I just responded look at his skin! Meanwhile I found out what kind of prothesis he had received for his hip which was with a nickel and cobalt alloy and I did a blood sample. The patient trusted me and didn’t want to be operated on that day and a few days later we had the result of a nickel allergy and my boss had to admit I was right and saved this patient an extra operation and unnecessary healing problems because he has received a titanium prothesis instead.

Why am I telling you this story and how is this effecting the vitality of your communication, business and/or private life?

It is the same with your clients in business or your life partner. Through really listening to your clients or life partner you find out their pain and you are able to support, reduce or even eliminate that pain. What really helps as well, is when you are kind and ask interested questions and are focused on that person, for example by turning off your cell phone so no distraction can disturb this conversation.

As studies have shown if patients were treated like this from nurses and doctors – even if it was just a gesture of holding the hand of a patient who was afraid of his or her operation before he or she entered the operating room – that their recovery was faster than those who were not taken care of at all.

You can transport that to business clients and life partners as well, when their business is sick or they are struggling to succeed with certain things or when you’re life partner is sick and you take real care of him or her.

So how will you improve your way of a vital communication and showing empathy to your patients, clients, business partners and/or family members today?

“People want to be seen, heard and understood. Be the one that listens with empathy.”- Michelle Davis