Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust

In his blog, “Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust,” Bruce Temkin writes about a critical differentiating factor, namely, empathy — one’s ability to feel, understand and appreciate the experience of another. Because of the acute vulnerability associated with the majority of patient conditions and situations in healthcare, emotional intelligence of a hospital’s culture and its caregivers to perceive, reflect on and adjust to the felt-experiences of patients and their family members is essential. Why? Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Creating a signature experience for our patients and their families at its most fundamental and basic level involves understanding how a patient and/or family member feels, examining our actions and how they affect the other and quickly and effectively making the necessary changes so as to improve how the patient/family member feels.

Experience Matters

Most people have an innate ability to be empathetic, but organizations tend to dampen this natural instinct. While a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups (a single purchase, for instance, may include contact with decisions by product management, sales, marketing, accounts payable, and legal organizations), companies push employees to stay focused on their functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives focused on narrow domains, which creates a perceived chasm between customer empathy and employee success.

After examining much of the academic, medical, and business research on the topic of empathy, we developed a simple model for enhancing empathy that we call Perceive-Reflect-Adjust:

  • Perceive: Understand how someone else feels
  • Reflect: Examine how your actions affect those feelings
  • Adjust: Make changes to improve how someone else feels

P-R-A is a helpful model to follow for triggering individual empathy, but how can organizations apply…

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It’s More Than a Waiting Game in a Surgical Family Lounge

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “How much of human life is lost in waiting.”  At first glance, he seems to have a point.  We wait in grocery store and bank lines.  We wait in heavy traffic produced by road construction, an automobile accident, a freight train, or even an oblivious group of geese crossing a busy road.  We wait in long lines at amusement parks to ride a favorite ride or experience a popular attraction.  We wait at bus stops and airports.  We wait at sporting events.  We wait in offices – doctor’s, dentist’s, tax preparer’s, attorney’s, insurance agent’s, realtor’s, clergy members’.  We wait hours in line for the first showing of a new movie, even going as far as to bring a chair to sit on, sleeping bag to lie on, or tent in which to stay warm.  We wait for the announcement of the winning lottery numbers.  We wait for the phone to ring or to receive a text message from a child driving a couple of hours to a friend’s house.

Consider the following paradox: The same persons that normally hate waiting in traffic jams and in line at department stores will brave congested mall roads and wait for hours in the very early morning on Black Friday for the store doors to open to get the advertised best deals and choice pickings of limited “on sale” products.  What makes people who normally hate waiting choose to put themselves in heavy traffic and long lines of waiting?  Why might one situation be experienced as “frustrating” and “annoying” and the other be fully acceptable and freely chosen?

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