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Recently I came across an interesting article entitled “How to Teach Doctors Empathy”. The point of the article was that being a good medical doctor requires an understanding of people, not just science.
This is also true of spiritual leaders. Being a good spiritual leader requires an understanding of – and an ability to connect deeply with – people, not just biblical facts.
Here are some points from the article that can apply to spiritual leaders.
- Clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes and to convey an understanding of the patient’s situation as well as the desire to help. Clinical empathy was once dismissively known as “good bedside manner” and traditionally regarded as far less important than technical acumen. But a spate of studies in the past decade has found that it is no mere frill. Increasingly, empathy is considered essential to establishing trust, the foundation of a good doctor-patient relationship.
- Studies have linked empathy to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes, decreased physician burnout, and a lower risk of malpractice suits and errors.
- While some people are naturally better at being empathic, empathy can be taught. Empathy is a cognitive attribute, not a personality trait.
- One study found that, on average, doctors interrupt patients within 18 seconds.
- While some doctors [say] they don’t have the time to be empathic, the skill has proved to be a timesaver rather than a time sink. It can help doctors zero in on the real source of a patient’s concern, short-circuiting repeated visits or those “doorknob moments” doctors dread, when the patient says “Oh, by the way …” and raises the primary concern as the doctor is headed out of the room.
- Doctors are explainaholics. Our answer to distress is more information; if a patient just understood it better, he would come around.
Certainly, as Christian leaders we have considerably more “facts” than medical doctors have. We have the eternal Word of God and not merely the results of human research. Nevertheless, this should not justify being impersonal or mechanical when we deal with people.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15, ESV)