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Our Purpose

The purpose of our Leadership Club is to help you become more successful in your medical career. At the same time, we also encourage you to use your leadership skills to gently change the culture of smoking in China to help people live longer, happier lives.

As a doctor or health care worker, you have a wonderful opportunity to influence many people. The following article will help you gain their trust and build stronger relationships.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes to understand how they feel. It is more than just listening, it is responding with insight and awareness. Empathy is an emotional skill you need to understand and practice if you are going to be a great leader. Empathy will also help you be a more effective and successful doctor or health care worker.

Example of Empathy

When your daughter comes home from school, runs up to you and gives you a big hug, you could respond with:

"What is happening?"
Or, "You seem so excited and happy!"

The first response is fine, but is not an example of empathy. The second response shows that you have noticed your daughter’s emotion and are focused on her feelings. This is empathy.

To respond with empathy, you describe the other person’s feelings as you understand them. It does not matter if you are exactly correct. What is important is that you are listening and reflecting your observations. This simple communication tool not only makes people feel better, it will help you become a better leader and health care worker.

People will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

Emotional Intelligence

When asked to define the ideal leader, many people emphasize the importance of:

  • Intelligence
  • Toughness
  • Integrity
  • Courage
  • Determination

But often overlooked is emotional intelligence and the softer, more personal qualities like empathy. However, emotional intelligence is twice as important as other skills for jobs at all levels. Studies show that emotional skills, including empathy, are very important for effective leadership. In fact, they are what separates outstanding leaders from those who are just acceptable.

It is true that effective leaders need to be able to make tough decisions. But they also need to let the people they are leading know that they understand what they are going through.

Keys to Empathy

Empathy takes into account the feelings of others when making decisions. People can be very educated, smart and skilled. But if they do not have empathy, they may not become highly effective leaders.

The keys to empathy are:

  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Listen to their words and tone of voice, and watch their body language. Try to understand what they are feeling.
  • Put their feelings into words. Keep it simple and use your own words.
  • Avoid repeating exactly what the other person has said.
  • Do not worry about being exactly right. The important thing is to listen closely and show that you are trying to understand.
  • Give the person a chance to respond to your comments.

Benefits of Empathy

Showing empathy has many benefits. By keeping the focus on the other persons' feelings, it encourages them to open up and talk to you. When we have strong emotions (good or bad, happy or sad), it feels good to have someone listen and encourage us to talk about it. When you respond with empathy, you show the other person that you are paying attention and that you care. This does not have to take a lot of time, but it helps build trust very quickly.

Common Complaint

One of the most common complaints patients have about doctors and health care workers is that they are too distant and uncaring. Distancing ourselves from patients is one of the traits we tend to pick up as we proceed through our medical training. We may begin our medical education with empathy for patients but gradually learn to separate from them, perhaps to save time or stay away from sadness.

Some doctors are proud of their ability to not get involved in their patients’ feelings. However, good medical care includes art and science, reason and intuition, attachment and detachment. We must find the right balance.

Your Success

Just as business managers with empathy are more likely to be successful, empathy also helps doctors and health care workers succeed. Studies show that patients are more satisfied with their treatment and are more likely to follow their doctor's advice when he or she shows empathy.

Some doctors and health care workers are naturally blessed with empathy, while others need to learn this skill. Doctors and health care workers who have suffered with pain or tragedy themselves are much more likely to share empathy.

Responding to patients' emotional needs is one of a physician's greatest challenges. When patients receive empathy that comes with effective communication, they are more satisfied with their doctor's care and more likely to follow directions for treatment.

Huge Health Problem

Researchers say 12% of all adult male deaths and 3% of all adult female deaths in China are caused by smoking. Smokers who start young are most likely to die prematurely.

Currently, 2000 people die every day in China from smoking. By 2050, researchers expect this to increase to 8000 a day. According to the largest survey ever done on the effects of tobacco use, smoking could eventually kill 30% of all young Chinese men, if nothing is done to help them stop the habit. (Source: BBC News)

You can Help

Let me tell you a simple method to help you know if patients would like help to quit smoking. Several weeks ago, I went to see a dentist. Before she examined my teeth, she gave me a paper with questions about my health. Included were 4 short questions:

  • Do you smoke tobacco?
  • How long have you smoked?
  • How many cigarettes a day do you smoke?
  • Would you like to quit?

Each of this doctor's patients is asked these questions. Those who smoke know she cares about them and is willing to help them quit when they are ready.

Telling someone they must quit smoking does not work. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and show that you understand how they feel. Show empathy and then gently ask what is keeping them from quitting. You might even suggest several of the most common reasons:

  • You feel peer pressure.
  • You like to smoke.
  • Maybe you smoke to deal with stress.
  • You are afraid of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Maybe you lack the will power to stop.
  • Smoking is a powerful habit.

Let people know you understand how difficult it is to quit. Assure them that you will support them when they are ready.

Share with Friends

As a doctor or health care worker, you are in a unique position to impact the biggest cause of preventable death in China. Look for opportunities to use your leadership skills to gently guide your patients, your family and friends to a smoke-free future. I also encourage you to share our Leadership Club with your friends and colleagues and invite them to join. Together we will make a difference.

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