Matilda is a self-confessed “health shopper.” She’s a friend of mine and recently started telling me about her interactions with various health professionals.
“When my work schedule changes I need to find a new physio and a different dentist and another osteo” she said.
This from a woman who drives across Sydney to buy her weekly groceries at a particular Farmers’ market. Ever curious – especially when it comes to health professionals – I decided to dig a little deeper.
“Are you sure it’s your schedule that comes into play here?” I questioned her.
“What do you like about those Farmers’ markets that you drive so far every week?”
“It’s a total experience and they seem to care” she says. “They know me, know my name, know what I like to buy, they remember things I tell them abut what I’ll make with their produce. You know what else? They have time to listen and they smile and make eye contact. What’s not to like?”
“Hhhhhhmmm. Interesting.” I say and go on to ask “So does any of this ever happen at the dentist? At the physio? Optometrist?”
“Occasionally and certainly not consistently”
“Maybe what you’re looking for Matilda is empathy, not just someone who is a dentist or physio? Maybe what you are looking for is a health professional with empathy”
Today it’s not enough to just have the basic technical skills
Today it’s not enough to have the basic technical skills required to do the job, to treat the client or patient.
Empathy is fast becoming the “must have” in every skill set.
The HR experts have long said “recruit for attitude and you can teach skills.” After many years of believing this to be true, now I’m not so sure.
If empathy is critical – can it be taught?
As we move into 2020 and beyond, health and health related businesses are going to continue to grow. Whether you are a clinician, a health professional or part of the admin or support team, clients/ patients are going to be looking to you for an empathetic response to their needs, their conditions and to them.
Here are 7 simple ways for all people working in health related businesses to master an empathetic approach:
7 ways to master empathetic approach
1. Use the person’s name. This is so very basic and yet something that so many people seem to find difficult. If you’re not sure whether to be formal or more informal for a particular person, opt for formal and they will soon let you know to be less formal.
Recently I was chatting to a man who had visited a new dentist and they had called him Mr Jacobs and he was thrilled “Do you know how long it has been since anyone called me Mr Jacobs”
He went on to spend thousands of dollars at that dental practice. I’m not suggesting he spent the money because they called him Mr Jacobs. He may have still spent that if they’d called him Steve. However, all the little things add up.
2. Make eye-contact. Studies are starting to show that the increased screen-time is impeding the ability for people to make basic eye contact.**
Eye contact is essential to building the relationship between people in any face to face situation – especially in a health appointment. You may need to refer to your screen, ensure you come back to make eye contact sufficiently to convey interest, understanding and ultimately empathy.
3. Take your time. Granted, this can be a challenge when appointments are short and there is a lot to get through in the allocated time.
When asking questions, allow time for your client or patient to consider their answer. Although you may have asked the question a thousand times, they may never have thought about their condition in this way.
Acting impatiently is a sure fire way to convey a lack of empathy
4. Encourage questions from your clients/patients. Make it easy for people to ask you their questions. Let them know that it’s normal to have questions and to seek clarity about what they hear.
It’s so easy for health professionals to loose appreciation for what the average person does not know about their area of speciality.
5. Keep social notes. Not in a creepy way, rather in a way that demonstrates interest in the whole person. That way you can genuinely recall some detail about the person the next time they come to see you – this builds the empathetic approach.
6. “Put yourself in their shoes” Even as I write this, I’m not really sure about this one. Here is my take on it. I remind myself that there are times when I have absolutely no idea what it might be like to be that person.
What I do know is that they are doing the best they can with what they have available to them right now.
When we approach every interaction with another person with this as our underlying and core belief, we go a long way to being empathetic towards others.
7. Ask for feedback. I’ve interviewed almost 100 guests on my podcast “So You want to Start a Business” and a question I ask each and every guest is “Where do you get your best feedback?”
The most common response is “From our clients” or “From our customers” and “This is the only feedback that really matters”
Ask your clients/ patients for feedback. They have some of the best ideas about how they experience your business.
What to do next to improve empathy?
When you read these steps, which are the ones you gravitate to naturally? Which ones are you more likely to need to work on. How are you gong to set about making any necessary changes?
Business success comes from client attraction and retention. Having an empathetic approach will increase your chances of attracting and retaining clients or patients in the long term.
** No study, however, suggests there is an age-related increase in empathy. The only longitudinal study available suggests that self-reported empathy may decline with age, but quite modestly.
Thanks for reading
I trust it is thought provoking and will encourage you to take action. Taking action is a key characteristics of successful business owners.
I’m Ingrid Thompson and as a Trainer, Business Coach and the Founder of Healthy Numbers I help people take action to get ready to start their own business.
I’ve written “So You Want to Start a Business; the 7 steps to create, start and grown your own business”. Buy your copy here or an excerpt here.
In the popular podcast “So You Want to Start a Business” I interview entrepreneurs and business owners about their business startup journey so we can learn from their wisdom. Click here to listen to some fabulous interviews with incredible people.
Do you need help starting and growing your business? Please give me a call on 0405 212 882 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org